The Arcana Journey

by Donna Lowden

The Arcana Journey is a tool I came up with to help me remember the meaning or story behind each of the Major Arcarna cards. I tried to capture the meaning behind each card and the symbolism. Sometimes, however, I found that I wasn't planning what was to be said as Awen had taken hold and Spirit was writing it for me with its own messages, I guess. It helped to bring understanding for me. I could have gone deeper and darker at times with it but then I felt it needed to be accessible for everyone, regardless of age and background. I hope you find something in there that speaks to you in some way.

The Arcana Journey

Nabal was a young lad like any other, full of dreams of adventure. He worked for his father, helping him as an apprentice carpenter. His father had a well deserved reputation of delivering an impeccable service to his employers. Sometimes big commissions would come in, of which he would travel far to get his materials. But they were also responsible for the needs of their village and surrounding villages. Nabal however did not have the gift of carpentry and his attention was lacking when his father tried to teach him. His father often worried what would happen to him as only a Fool would have no trade. What would become of him? Nabal’s wondering mind was no secret and often he found himself at the butt of people’s jokes. But he knew he was meant for something different. He just didn’t know what it was yet.

Nabal was busy fashioning a staff with a dogs head as its handle piece. He was going to use obsidian, for his eyes and nose. He did spend time over it as he used his faithful companion, Hound as his model.  Hound was an old hunting dog but had been injured during a hunt and was not capable of chasing down prey. Nabal had discovered him after he had been beaten for being useless and took him home. His mother had helped Nabal to tend to his wounds and nurse him back to health. He was healthy but for a limp to his right leg. But that didn’t stop him being by Nabal’s side all day. Nabal felt a connection in Hound as they both were incapable to do the job they had been given. Nabal could do the basics but never to the degree his father could do.

One night Nabal was entertaining the villagers in the Inn, by singing a tale of a court jester. He played it out with great enthusiasm. The crowd laughed and cheered him on. Then his father walked in.  He turned white and the disappointment was written all over his face. He walked out again. Nabal rushed through the tale and chased after him. By the time he reached his home, his father was at his work table carving something. He was busy with his back to him and refused to turn round.
‘Father I am sorry. I was only playing. They were enjoying it.’
‘If you paid as much attention to the craft as you do silly stories, you might be a half decent carpenter. Why would you make a fool of yourself like that? You know you can be better than that.'
‘So you say but I don’t like carpentry. Or not enough to do it for the rest of my life. I am not like you father. I wish I was and I am sorry but I’m never going to be you.’
‘If your mother could see you now, she.......’
‘She would let me be who I am.’
‘And what is that apart from the village idiot?’
‘You don’t mean that.’
‘So what are you?’
‘I don’t know yet. But I know there’s something in me.’ Both father and son looked at each other in silence.
‘You think you know the way of the world. That you know better than the rest of us. You talk about dreams of grandeur but what have you done about it? When is it going to happen? Go to bed and think about what you are going to do. You are almost a man. It is time you behaved as such. The bakers son, Tommy has shown interest in being my apprentice and I think he has some ability. Make a decision.’
‘Yes father.’ Nabal’s head hung low and he went to bed with Hound by his side.

That night Nabal had a dream, which formed into a plan. An owl had visited him in his dream and answered his cries of help. The owl told him to travel to the west where the lands of the Kings lay. There, if he continued to walk, he would find his destiny. There will be friends made on the way and trials to overcome. If he thinks he has what it takes he must leave at first light.

Nabal awoke before dawn and spoke to his father as soon as he arose and explained his plan. His father said it was foolhardy and a waste of time. In the end he let Nabal go with an embrace but expected him back soon enough. After all, Nabal couldn’t stick to anything for long. This would finally prove it to him. Nabal had packed his belongings and tied them to his staff. This was it. He was going wherever his feet would carry him. Nabal had blind faith, with his joy making him feel he could walk on air. His excitement grew as he stepped forward embarking on his new adventure. Hound followed, yapping at his heels. Loyal and playful, he kept Nabal’s spirits up when the journey became hard. Nabal followed his dreams letting his rainbow vision guide him on his way, as he blindly steps forward. Nabal sings to himself, picturing what his future beholds. 

Nabal over weeks crosses farm fields and woodlands. Passes lakes and rivers and meets folk along the road who share a tale and some bread with him. So far it has been pleasant as the nights have been warm and dry and he has met some nice people. Nabal comes to a dark woodland where little light manages to penetrate the dense leaves. He has no choice but to walk through it as it seems to go on for miles left and right. He would be ok as Hound was with him. After about an hour’s walk, Nabal thinks he can see a light burning ahead. He tries to get a better look and then hears an awful mournful cry with chanting and shouting; some strange noises. This was something unnatural. He decides to turn back and go a different way, when he hears a snap behind him and then a growl. A huge wolf stands there. They try to back away but he lets out a howl and shepherds them up, deeper into the woodland. Hound tries to attack, but he is weak and old. No match for a wolf. They give in and let themselves be ushered up, towards the light. Once they arrive, the wolf struts off. A man is sitting cross legged by a fire. To his side is an alter stone with a chalice, wand, rattle and a smoking bundle of herbs on an upturned shell. His eyes are open, looking over the fire, towards Nabal. But they are a smoky blue of which he doesn’t appear to see out from. Is he blind? He is old with a white beard and long, unkempt hair. He wears a bear cloak with nothing on his chest. He wears breaches with a belt slung along his waist with various tools hanging from it, including a loaded pouch. The man starts breathing heavy and Nabal turns to go, not wanting to disturb him. But the wolf crosses his path again, preventing them going any further.
‘I have been waiting for you. It would be rude to go so soon,’ said a deep, croaky voice. Nabal turned back to face the old man.
‘Me? Why me? How did you know I would be coming here?’
‘I know many and more things boy. But that shouldn’t trouble you. What should trouble you, is what took you so long? Not to worry. We still have time. Now I am Gart. I will instruct you in writing, philosophy, magical arts, the elements and connection to all. I will teach you basic meditation, so you can learn some control and find some peace. Wolf here will also teach you about the wild beasts on the Earth and keep your dog in check. Does this sound agreeable? If not, then be on your way and don’t waste my time.’
‘No I agree. Will you explain what you were doing?’
‘That you are not ready to understand,’  he said getting up and collecting his things. Nabal went to help but Gart, pushed him away and did it himself. Once standing, Nabal realised he was much bigger and stronger than he first thought.
‘But I can tell you this. I am a shaman or some call me Magician. I live alone with Wolf here. My friend; oh we have been together for some time now.’ He looks down and rubs the back of his ear with such fondness. ‘You will return with me to my hut on the other side of this woodland. You stay for as long as it takes for me to feel you are ready. I will not show you everything as you have to make your own way in the world and not be another Gart. So other teachers will instruct you. You can leave, of course, at anytime as you have free will. You will get out of it what you put in. Listen and learn. Now what is your name boy?’
‘Nabal.’ He said with his chin up.
‘We shall see.’ And together they walked along to Gart’s hut.

Nabal stayed here for two years, in which time, he learned to read and write; to read some of Garts, heavy books and form an inquisitive mind, stemming now from logic; make his own informed choices of opinion. Nabal discovered more about the Earth’s cycles and the land of which he shared. He found a rhythm to this kind of living which he found suited him. He watched and listened to Gart and tried to absorb all that he could. But all too soon Gart decided Nabal had learned all he was meant to, for now with him and he had to move on. Gart instructed Nabal to a path that would lead him to the coast. Here he would meet a woman. A High Priestess!

Nabal walks on this path for some time until he sees a temple in the distance, near the coastline. He heads in that direction as it is getting very dark. Its spires look down over the trees. Nabal finds the entrance to the temple; a huge stone door with two pillars either side of it. There is an old inscription engraved over it. ‘Only those of clear wilful minds and true honest hearts may enter.’ Does Nabal have a wilful mind? He thinks his heart is honest. He takes a deep breath and holds it as he passes the threshold. As he does, his eyes have to adjust to the darkness the swallows him up. Torches are lit sporadically along the stone walls. He enters a huge corridor which leads to many different chambers. He follows the torches that are lit to another chamber. As he pushes the door open, its protests echo off the walls. His breath is caught as there, right at the back, sits a young woman on a stone throne. She has long black hair with eyes almost as black. She wears a cloak of many feathers with a simple tunic beneath it. She is hooded and has a circlet that sits just in between her eyebrows, a crescent moon. A staff leans against the throne and to her side is a big basin of water, resting on a stone plinth. Above Nabal notices there seems to be no ceiling but the first star of the night sky, and the moon hovers above drawing to its fullness. She smiles a welcome that doesn’t quite meet her eyes and gestures he comes closer.
‘This is the Temple of the Mysteries and Healing Arts,’ she says. ‘You have entered and therefore wish to dedicate yourself to its path. I am The High Priestess and I shall be your mentor. Do you wish to continue?’
He replies ‘Yes, I do. Can my companion stay as well?’ He looks down at Hound who starts wagging his tail, sniffing out things that cannot be seen. ‘Of course’ is her reply with a smile that finally reaches her eyes. ‘Come closer and give me your hand.’ Nabal does and gives her his hand. She turns it palm up and scoops some of the water from the basin and pours it over his and watches as it trickles away. She then takes a small blade from her gown and looks up at him. Holding his wrist tightly she pricks his skin with it and his blood weeps into the basin of water. She then lets go and watches as it swirls and swirls. She stirs it round and says something which Nabal can’t understand. He wraps his hand in his underarm. Pictures form from the blood and water. He realises she is interpreting what she sees and it is about him.
‘What do you see Priestess?’
‘Many paths for you are presented. I see many choices and what you are made of. Nothing is written that has been set. A shadow has followed you here that you hold onto to. Until you face it and let it go, you will never reach your potential. But for now Nabal, you are welcome. Laila will guide you to your chamber. You are not permitted to enter the west wing of this temple as that is the home for the innocents who train and live here. Is that understood?’
‘Yes Priestess.’ Nabal saw a dark movement out of the corner of his eye and was shocked to see it was a panther! He had only ever heard of these creatures before. Nabal’s heart starts to beat faster and Hound growls but hides behind Nabal’s legs.
‘Ah this is Sasha, my loyal companion. She is free to roam wherever she wishes. She will not harm either of you so don’t give her cause to change her mind.’ The panther sits and then settles by the feet of the priestess.
Nabal looks back at the priestess and says ‘You are the counterpart of Garth, the magician aren’t you?’
‘In a manner of speaking; yes I am. I will teach you the healing arts.’ She takes his injured hand and places her hand over it whispering something. When she takes it away no mark is visible from where she cut him only a light throb was left. I will teach you the wisdom and mysteries of the goddess. I will teach you about the Earth mother and to listen to her teachings. To develop your relationship with the devas and the power of silence. To listen to your higher self and explore who it is you really are. You will stay with me for a year and a day and no longer. Then be on your way again. If you should stay here any longer, a man would never want to leave as you take the goddesses breath in your heart and forget who you are and where you are going.’

Nabal falls in love with the High Priestess but realises he will never obtain her, for she is married to the Earth and has a mysterious veil that wraps around her and keeps her secluded from the outside world; for she belongs to the night; to the moon and stars; the time of dreams and whispers. She could never be tied down or obtained by anyone but her counterpart.

A year and a day pass and, as she promised, the Priestess tells him it is time to move on. So she instructs him to continue up the river through the Twin Mountains and follow this trail until he comes to Glenwowery. Here her Aunt is Lady of the land. She has teachings for Nabal as well. Nabal reluctantly leaves but promises to return one day for further teachings. His time had been tranquil and his lessons deep at the temple by the sea. It had a presence that brought him a sense of serenity.

As he travelled he puts into practice his rituals and offerings to the land. He only takes from the earth what he truly needs and gives a blessing and a prayer of thanks to Deity for the deer who sacrifices her flesh for him. He is well sustained for the long arduous journey. After three weeks he reaches his destination in time for the late autumn harvest. As Nabal walks to the fortress he takes in his surroundings. It is a very prosperous land where peasant and Lord reap the benefits of the hardworking community and each offers their own services. Hearth and home are important and the people of this place appear happy. Livestock are well looked after and the fields flourish. Nabal explains to the guards he has been sent here by The High Priestess herself. Eventually after a long wait he is admitted in to see the Lady. Nabal finds he is feeling nervous. For once Hound is not by his side as dogs are not allowed in this court, so Hound is once again waiting in the stables.

Nabal walks into a small hall. It is empty but for the woman sitting on a grand chair and a servant placing plates and two goblets of mead on the table next to her. She smiles a warm gracious smile at him, at which he finds he returns her smile.
‘Come join me and tell me your tale. I hear you have seen my niece. How is she?’
This woman has a warmth that you feel deep within your heart. The Lady has a golden crown of hair that is as bright as barleycorn on a midsummer’s day. Her eyes are bright blue with smile lines around them and she has rosy cheeks. She is a voluptuous woman in her early stages of pregnancy. Her presence is warm and inviting. ‘She is very well and sends her love and apologies that she can’t be here.’
‘She rarely visits me. She stays in her temple. But I can’t be bitter. At times I envy the choices she has made. So tell me your story and please eat. You look as though you could do with some food.’ She laughed as Nabal started to slowly devour some bread and fruit. He couldn’t remember the last time anything tasted so good. The Lady listened, encouraging him as he talked, when he almost forgets himself and the company he is in. She laughs and puts Nabal at ease.
‘Stay here Nabal for as long as you like. You can help me with my various duties and see for yourself what it is we do here. As I think this is what my niece had intended. My husband is away at present, at another Dunn talking to Chieftans there concerning boundaries. I am sure he will want to talk to you once he returns.
‘And when will that be my Lady?’
‘In about a moon’s turn or so I expect.’

Nabal became the Ladies personal helper and confidant. She had to settle squabbles with arguing farmers. She had to run the household and all the domestic duties as well as seeing over her own children, while all the time her own belly swelled. As did her sexual appetite. She made a point to show off her figure as it changed and grew and her people loved her all the more for it. She prepared the festivities and events for the Sabbaths. She walked in bare feet whenever she could and taught Nabal about the land that she ruled with so much love. She knew each grove, each beast. She knew where they slept, and hunted for food. She would watch and see all. There was a sense of a wildness about her that was so sensual; Nabal wondered if this was what the Emperor had fallen in love with. As she had grown up among her people here and as a child played in the woods and fields; they were as much a part of her as she was of them.

When shortly after the festivities were over, an illness of sorts plagued the people of Glenwowery. The Lady found herself in the thick of it. She housed the people who were infected as a way to separate the healthy people and stop it spreading. She housed them within her own walls and helped nurse them back to health. She explained to Nabal that she must lead by example and that if she wants a better place for her children to live then she must help that world achieve it. She offered her people her unconditional love and support. She ran herself ragged but kept a balance of her responsibilities and time for herself. She explained to Nabal that her people can only be good and strong while she was. If she became ill too, then who would they have to look to? Nabal realised why the people of the land did so well under her rule. Eventually people became better and soon they were back to health with only a few losses.

Days later, the Lord came riding in with his clan of men. They dismounted and the Lord first went to see his beloved wife. He had missed her over the last few months and was looking forward to spending some quiet hours with her. He listened to her as she told him of all the tales that had occurred while he had been gone. He kissed her gently and together they walked into the court, full of their household and guests. He listened to all of his advisors and put courtly affairs into order. After a short respite with his wife he was ready to meet Nabal.

Nabal saw him as soon as he had entered the court with his riding clan. He was fit and strong but quite a bit older than his wife. He had a dark moustache with a short beard, with speckles of grey. His face was often set in a frown but his eyes were warm. Nabal noticed he appeared confident in his movements and was obviously use to the power he had over people. However the Lord did not misuse it. He showed a great respect with everyone he came in contact with and they returned it. After hearing tales of the Lord’s successes and knowing the Lady herself, Nabal felt he already knew the Lord somewhat. He was kind but fair, a man who put his own people’s needs before his own; a man who wasn’t scared to show his vulnerability and had the courage to face his fears head on; a man ready to protect what he loves and fight for them until the very end. Nabal was nervous but with excitable anticipation. He quickly walked down the centre of the hall, flagged by courtiers to his left and right. He knelt at the Lords feet.
‘My Lord.’ said Nabal, with his head respectfully bowed
‘Rise Nabal,’ he replied, smiling. ‘I have heard how helpful you have been to my wife and the court of late. I appreciate your assistance and hope you will continue to stay with us here at Glenwowery, for a little longer?’
‘I would very much like that my Lord.’

So Nabal did, for another six months. During this time, Nabal watched as the Lord lead his people. He showed wisdom and proved his authority was fair and true time and again. But Nabal also discovered that the Lord was perhaps a little dogmatic at times and rigid in his values. He had high expectations of himself and therefore others. If you fell short, you knew the Lord was disappointed and it was down to the Lady to remind him of patience and compassion at times. Nabal didn’t get to spend much time with the Lord but at times he would be invited to sit by the fire and discuss life’s trials with the Lord and enter into a conversation where both men found they learned something new; a new perspective. At this time Nabal glimpsed of the simple man he could have been and the vulnerability he hid away within himself. He realised how much depth he had and the burden he carried on his shoulders without complaining. Nabal saw the love he had for his people and how he constantly tried to do his best by them, the land, his wife and children. Which was why, he thought they got on so well. Nabal didn’t require anything from him, as he was on a journey, just the opportunity to talk was enough.

As this time came to an end, Nabal became a little sad at the thought of going out on his own again into the world. Over the last few years, Nabal had learned a lot about the world he was part of. However, the Lord had arranged for a guide to accompany Nabal onto his next destination. His name was John, a Hierophant also known as Druid. John was about the same age as the Lord but with a ruddy complexion from being outside so much. His hair and beard had an auburn glow and had deed brown eyes which gave nothing away. He wore robes and clasps and bangles. He too carried a makeshift bag of his belongings. Nabal wasn’t all that happy to start having someone with him on his journey, other than Hound. But he couldn’t argue as it made sense. So he bid his farewells to his new found friends and set off on his way, accompanied by Hound and John.

They were travelling to a neighbouring county where John had business to attend to and Nabal was to continue on, following an old map given to him by the Lord. There he was going to find some of these trials that had been mentioned. They had been continuing west for several days now. Nabal had to admit to himself that John wasn’t quite as bad as he had originally thought. In fact, he could be quite interesting, as he was always reciting paragraphs from books he had read or was reading something obscure and then discussed it with Nabal. Nabal realised that his doubts about him were due to his own fears about his own shortcomings and failings - which were unfounded. He admired John’s dedication.

They stopped at local villages, all of which seemed to know John. Children came running to greet him once news had reached their ears that he was here. He told them tales and listened to their woes. Young and old seemed to seek his advice. Nabal was surprised that he was genuinely sought after. In return these people would give them food and shelter and a bit of ale to keep them warm. Eventually Nabal let his guard down with the old Druid. One night as they slurped at their stew by the fire in one small village, he told him of his life back home and the quest he was on now.
‘It appears your journey is to find yourself. I had a similar journey once, a long time ago. And it also involved a disproving father. Can I offer you some advice?’
‘Please do.’
‘Well, don’t confuse yourself with your father. It may sound strange but later you may understand what I mean. Have a good base or foundation within yourself. Don’t get lost on the journey. Here or in the Otherworld. Find what roots you back to our reality. Protect yourself from others as well as yourself - as we can be our greatest enemies. Even in the darkest times, remind yourself and hold onto some light; something good. Remind yourself of how far you have come and where you want to go and all that you have achieved. It is a lonely task to find yourself. Sometimes people do and get confused and hide away with that knowledge without sharing it with the rest of the world. It takes courage and commitment to do this. However you are free to turn back at any time. Listen to your teachers, but also those around them. Remember, everything is a lesson Nabal.’ And then he smiled. Nabal felt suddenly his journey had changed. He realised all this time he had been trying to work John out. John had been doing the same with him.
‘Here take this.’ And John handed Nabal a black crystal with a strip of leather wound round it.
‘I was given it when I started on my path by a wise woman. It has been by my side ever since and helped me many times. It is time to move on to a new owner. It has gained much power over the years and will aid you on your journey.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Never ask a man if he is sure if he gives you a gift. I am offering you a gift and now you accept it for what it is: a gift between friends. Nabal bowed his head and thanked him. ‘I shall attach it to my staff and think of you often.’
‘Good. Now let’s move on as my legs are starting to ache sitting here.’

Nabal realised John was also a man of spirit and taught Nabal some of his own techniques but also the morals to abide by in this lifetime. Nabal saw his teachings in his travels. On occasion, John was called upon to bless a herd, a house, a handfasting and funeral rites. He was a man greatly sought after and respected due to his patience, his faith in spirit and his moral code. He did his best to pass these teachings on to the people, if they would take the time to listen and put it into practice. Nabal wanted to know more. He had learned so much of the mysteries but didn’t understand how to bridge it together with this physical world and the Other. John helped him to understand this, coming from a very practical and grounded perspective. He explained that you have to have your feet equally in both worlds, otherwise you will lose your way and be lost forever, never tasting the sweetness of both.

Eventually they came to Corkwood: the next Chieftain’s court. Once again it was obvious John would know little rest. The most troubling being a Christian Priest who was hoping to have words with John in converting him to the Christian faith. Both were men of great faith and power in their own right. However they had very different paths in which they travelled. Nabal was worried for John but the druid explained they are both men of peace and will come to an understanding. A choice is to be made and only he can make it. John was implored to decide whether the Christian codes of ethics and spirituality follow his own and if he can belong to an order rather than a man on his own standing. This decision would affect him for the rest of his life. The world is changing and his kind are now few and being pushed out. However, a man has to follow his true calling that lies within his heart that only he can hear and respond to. John chose to stay as he was and thanked the priest for testing him and walked away content within himself. Nabal had followed the ways of the Druid, as he had learnt and practiced this before with the teachings of Magician and the High Priestess. Now he has added codes and ethics as well as the blessings to give to the people. A way of life practiced and now shared. Nabal stayed for a couple of nights and then moved on wishing his new friend all the best and hoping their paths should cross again.

Nabal journeyed for six days onto another village where they were making preparations for the Beltaine festival. They were erecting a huge may pole on top of a small hill, where standing stones circled and encased the mound. May flowers were decorating the path, the pole and stones. Everyone seemed to be in a jolly mood as Nabal made his way to a tavern to enquire about a room for the night. He needed a good bed and knew Hound would be ok in the stables. Nabal was shown to a small room with a bed, a bowl and privy. He went to the bar and ordered himself a chicken broth with a chunk of bread and some watered down ale. The ale was poor but it felt good to have a hearty meal inside of him after being out in the cold nights. A red headed girl eyed him from the bar but when Nabal would look at her she would smile and quickly look away. She was delivering food to the tavern and before she left she threw a look over her shoulder, smiled and was gone.

That night the festivities began with drinking and tales in the tavern. Come midnight, Nabal joined in as a procession of little girls to young women who went knocking on doors, announcing Brigid had come. They swirled and danced down the streets, making their way up to the hill where two bonfires burned announcing Beltaine. As Nabal reached the hill he noticed one of the young women in the centre of the circle the villagers had created. Fire now covered most of the circle with one small entrance way left clear. The men were being pushed forward and the tavern’s wife started merrily shoving him forward, where he tripped and managed to catch himself in time. He laughed at her and watched as the young maiden cloaked in white went round looking at each man and shaking her head. He was laughing with the others when suddenly it was his turn. As she stepped close, her face appeared behind the shadows of the hood. She has the fairest skin with lilac eyes. Her lips are full and rosy with that red curly hair again. She is the girl from the tavern. She removed her hood, revealing her full beauty. She wore a crown of May flowers in her hair. She then let her gown fall to the ground and reveals her nakedness. Her hair falls to her waist with a gold ribbon woven through it. She is stunningly beautiful and Nabal realises he hasn’t taken a breath for a while. The crowd cheers and she takes his hand and leads him forward. Two women came from behind him as they start to undress him. Nabal tries to protest as they then plant the antlered crown upon his head. But it is too late. He has been chosen. They are the May King and Queen. The drums start to pound as she takes him to the centre of the hill, jumping over the fiery entrance. Here they are hidden from most eyes, as the drums and cheers increase in volume and tempo. Two goblets are waiting on an alter stone. The maiden takes one and passes it to him. She then takes her own. She says ‘Drink,’ which he does; a strange mixture, which Nabal couldn’t place. ‘Have you done this before?’ he asks.
‘No, have you?’
‘No,’ he replies as his head starts to spin.
‘Then I chose well.’ And with that she kissed him on his cheek. then his neck and then his lips. Nabal finds he is kissing back. He pulls her close to him and their kisses become deeper and more intense. She starts to explore his body and he surrenders himself to her exploring until his need to explore takes over. As their confidence grows as does their need to be one. He enters her, joining their union as her screams of pleasure and pain mix as one. He is gentle all the same as for tonight she is the goddess incarnate. He has never felt anything like this before as his passions grow and his heart swells for this woman he has only just met. Together they reach their climax as they quicken their pace to the sound of the drums and then his seed is released. Together they lay exhausted in each other’s arms as the sweat sticks their bodies close. They weren’t given much time as the villagers came rushing in, covering them in a blanket. Together they stand up, supporting one another. Mulled wine is handed to them and pats on the back. The villagers start jumping over fires too. Young couples, girls for fertility, older people with aches and pains for healing. And then they herded the cattle to ensure their good health and prosperity. Singing dancing and merriment lasted the night.

Nabal found the maiden Arianne (he later discovered) and discovered they had their own hut for the night. Here quietly, in privacy they took their time with each other. They talked of their lives and dreams; joked of their awkwardness and laughed together. Nabal found himself staring into her eyes as she looked down on him. He didn’t want this moment to ever end. He noticed how she bit her lip when she was nervous or shy. She giggled to hide it. How she laughed and would throw her head back and how her cheeks would flush. He admired her bravery as this was no easy thing she did for the village. But he listened to her as she regaled him with the preparations she had undergone that evening. How she had hoped to find him as she knew he was what she desired. They soon fell asleep as Lovers do, entangled in each other’s arms. This is what contentment feels like thought Nabal.

The next morning was the dancing round the may pole. And once again this was led by the Horned God and his May Queen. Nabal forgot about everything but Arianne. Then Nabal was told they could have the hut for a year and a day and if they still wanted to be together, a marriage could be made. Together they lived in the hut. Nabal found he could do odd jobs as a scribe and healer; offering advice and a listening ear to others at times. His times with Arianne were what he waited for though. He just wanted to be with her; to see her smile and listen to her stories. She had a kind nature and he found he just wanted to make her happy. They lived harmoniously together, sharing all with the hound happily settled at their feet. Nabal had never been so loved in his life and the kindness and generosity Arianne gave him was all new and astounding to one such as Nabal.

However dreams started to plague him and he became restless. He knew this wasn’t what he had intended. He was only meant to pass through. He never meant to fall for her. Dreams made him sleep less and less and Arianne noticed the change in him. They started to become snappy with each other and spent less time together. Nabal realised he had to explain and share how he was feeling rather than keeping it to himself as he was making both of them unhappy. He knew he had a choice to make. He sat Arianne down and explained his quest and how he found it was still calling him. How he loved her so much but he would be lying to himself, closing something off within himself if he didn’t finish this quest. She cried and he cried. But after much discussion she agreed to give her blessing on his leave as long as he returned to her. Nabal knew he may not be able to as he didn’t know what was in store for him but promised, saying he would do his best to return. Nabal left hound with Arianne to keep her company and protect her and hound seemed to understand. He had settled here in this home and could run through the woods as Arianne collected herbs and flowers. Their last night was bittersweet but Nabal vowed to hold it close to his memory and would think of her every day. And with that he left; once again with his belongings over one shoulder. Hoping the sooner he goes, the sooner he can return to his Arianne.

Nabal journeyed for weeks and ended up in very rough terrain and this was his darkest of moments so far on his adventure. He regretted leaving Arianne and wanted to turn back. But which way was back? He had to cross treacherous rivers, rocky mountains, with little source of food. Rough winds and storms would bite and tear at his face making him almost blind to what was in front of him. One particular night after a week of struggling through, the wind was howling at him like a banshee. Nabal was becoming disorientated and the wood’s other inhabitants were calling and taunting him to loose his way. While hauling himself over rocks on the cliff face, his foot slipped, with the weight on his back, it was enough for Nabal to lose his balance and go tumbling down the side. He tumbled a foot or two and luckily, or not - depending on your point of view - a tree stopped him. Here he passed out for a good six hours while the rain attempted to wash away the blood from his face.

When he finally awoke, the pain in his leg made itself known through a shearing agony that reached up to his stomach and made him heave. He pulled himself up and reached for his backpack to try and find some herbs he could use for his leg. The rest of his body was bruised and cut but it was his leg that was the problem. When he looked at his leg, there was a big red gash to the bone. Nabal cleaned it as best he could and wrapped it with some fabric from his shirt. He knew he needed to pack it with herbs but the ones he needed he had already used at a previous village and had not re-stocked. After some time of concentration and finding the will to move, he managed to get up. He found a longer path around the cliff as there was little chance to be able to actually start climbing. Nabal found some long ago discarded wood that could be used as a staff. It was splintering but it helped with distributing his weight. For three days he continued struggling on like this. At night he sat freezing unable to make himself a fire, so ate the small amount of food he had left in his bag. His thoughts became darker as the doubt of ever being able to get help before he died on this mountain, grew and grew. He started thinking of home, his friends and family. How he had left without a word to start this foolhardy adventure and never got to say how he loved them and appreciated all they had tried to do for him. How he had now thrown his life away with Arianne to die by himself on this wretched mountain.

On the third day he was rescued! As he came round the other side of the mountain he could see the next village up ahead. Slowly he hobbled along dragging his leg trying to ignore the pain that now felt as if it was tearing though his whole body. His mind became cloudy and his thoughts jumbled. He thought he heard a noise from behind him. As Nabal turned round to look, the dizziness over took him. He fell to the ground but just as his head was about to hit the ground he thought he had seen the world turn black and white.

When Nabal awoke, he found himself on a pallet, naked with a blanket covering his modesty and his leg newly wrapped and bound with herbs.
‘Quick Fionn, I think he is wakening,’ said a woman’s voice. She came in and smiled which made her cheeks as big as apples. She wore a plain red dress that was grubby and torn from long wearing. She sponged his head as a man came in, presumably Fionn. He was a big tough looking man and Nabal could tell by his eyes he was younger than he looked but had the body of an ox.
‘Nice to see you have finally woken up. I was about ready to put you back where I found you!’ said the man with a grin.
‘Where am I? What happened?’
‘My name is Briony and this is my son Fionn who found you yesterday. You had collapsed while Fionn was with the horses. He popped you on the cart for me to fix you up. You are now in my home, here at Cattlereap.’
‘I thank you both for saving me. I have been walking for some time and had a fall on Ben Carrlick. I was lucky to have stumbled in front of Fionn when I did.’ So then Nabal told them of his journey so far.

Nabal had to stay for many weeks with Briony and Fionn. He learnt of their own hardships they had faced together and the trials they still continue to fight. He found them to be a strong pair, who supported one another. The love they had was apparent for one and all to see although it was often hidden behind jibes they would give each other. When Nabal was finally able to hobble around with the support of crutches, he went outside. Nabal had discovered Fionn was practicing manoeuvring the horses for a Chariot competition. Whoever manages to show the most control over their horses, would then win the honour of driving the kings own chariot. It was an honour Fionn was wishing for. He practiced as often as his own chores could allow him to. Between doing his own manual work for his home and work for neighbouring farms, it was tough. Fionn had a problem however. His horses were the best he could afford and he had taken a very long time to acquire. Through saving, gambling and other exploits, he had managed to purchase two good horses. However, they were both headstrong. Individually they were strong and fast and did well. Together they were a nightmare; both of them pulling in opposite directions, fighting each other at every opportunity! The harder Fionn tried to control them by forcing his will upon them, the more they resisted.

Nabal sat watching Fionn struggle with the two beasts as the sun started to set. Soon he would have to give up as there would be no more light. The sweat was pouring off him with the strain. Briony came out with a cloak hugged close to her body.
‘He is wearing himself so thin. He can’t keep this up and I fear he isn’t going to be ready in a moons time for the competition.’
‘I think I can help. Not physically, I know, but maybe some advice. I have learned a lot on my travels.’ Briony placed her hand on his shoulder.
‘That would be good. Brigit knows he needs it.’
When Fionn finally came in he was exhausted after putting the horses away. He slumped at the table almost too tired to eat the rabbit broth and bread.
‘Fionn, Nabal thinks he can help you son with the horses. Don’t you Nabal?’
‘Yes, yes I do. I will talk with you tomorrow once you have rested.’
‘We can talk now Nabal,  I am fine.’
‘I think not, as you are struggling to stay awake as it is. Tomorrow when you can concentrate would be better.’
‘Very well then, but I don’t see what you can do when I have tried everything.’

The next evening when Fionn had completed all his work, Nabal sat down with him at the meagre stable. ‘I have been watching you closely over the past few weeks and noticed a few things. One; yes your horses are very fine but also very much like yourself: stubborn. This can be a very good thing. But you hate to lose and believe your way is best. You are a strong powerful man now but sometimes you have to loosen those reins a bit on yourself as well as these horses. Be a bit gentler. The more you get frustrated the more they pick up on it and respond accordingly. All I am saying is sometimes you need to go with the flow of the energy more than always resisting it. You are not one with the horses. When you do that, the three of you will work together, as one. I think you have felt alone in yourself for a long time!’
‘Now hang on there Nabal!’
‘Just hear me out,’ he says with a hand raised. ‘It has been a long time without another man around the house. As a child you felt you had to be it. You have looked after and protected your mother by almost fighting the world. Now, yes you are a powerful man but inside yourself you are still wrestling with your own daemons. These horses are here to show what is going on within you. I bet if you loosen up on the reins and relax more, you will see the change. Individually, the horses work well with you. Show them what it means to work within a team.’
‘Ok Nabal, I’m not sure about this but I’ve tried everything else. How do you know so much about me?’
‘Watching you and talking to your mother. It’s really not hard to see.’ He says grinning. Fionn sighs, defeated and gets up, offering a hand for Nabal.
‘Right let’s get started.’ exclaims Fionn.

Over the next few weeks Fionn tried to change his attitude and dominance over the horses, with Nabal watching from a distance, occasionally shouting instructions. Finally, the day of the competition arrived. Many people attended from near and far. Some were men that Fionn had grown up with and fought on occasion but were friends now. He shook hands with each of them wishing them well. This was sometimes welcomed and sometimes returned with abuse. Either way, Fionn didn’t mind. He was there for one thing. To win! Races were carried out as well as demonstrations of control by going through an obstacle course. Numbers dwindled as people were disqualified. Three remained. An older guy from a neighbouring glen and a young man Fionn knew; a bully by all accounts. During the trials of speed, agility and cunning, this bully tried on numerous occasions to run Fionn over. The horses and Fionn didn’t get flustered and kept their cool. They showed such determination and kept a cool head which proved to the king they would be an asset in the heat of battle. The bully in the end unwittingly helped them to win. Briony and Nabal were in the crowd cheering as loudly as they could. Fionn basked in the glory and then stayed on in the court for the festivities, as other kings had come to watch the show.

When Fionn returned to his home, he thanked Nabal for all his help. ‘I really couldn’t have done it without you.’
‘You had all the tools, I just showed you how to use them is all. Now my leg is getting much better. I will plan to leave soon. Thank you to you both for your wonderful kindness and generosity.’
‘Nabal my dear you are welcome back here whenever you want. Who would have thought a stranger would be of so much help.’

Nabal continued on his journey once again. As he does, so he contemplates how far he has come on his journey and how much he has learned. He has had far more education than he ever would have got at home and now he has put it into good use. He has seen the powers of nature and the universe. Of love which has to be the greatest of all. For that can make people do anything. He knows the elements and their connection to all. Who knows what else awaits him?

One night Nabal sits by a fire where he prepares to sleep. He stares into the flames watching as the shapes flicker and dance before his eyes. Transforming into images and telling their own story. Nabal is weary and feels his head start to bow down towards his chest. He falls into a deep sleep.

Nabal dreams he is wondering through a wood. It is night but the full moon illuminates the ground creating an eerie glow that weaves its way through the trees. Nabal hears an owl hooting in the distance and feels he is not alone. He can hear the leaves and twigs crunch under his boots and his own breathing creates a slight mist before him. Then in the bushes he hears a rustling. He snaps his head round and jumps back as a boar comes charging towards him, with his hot breath puffing out of him and his eyes set on Nabal. He heads straight for him. Nabal stands there motionless staring into the eyes of the boar and realises it is an Otherworldly creature because for a brief moment he’s looking into the eyes of the Goddess herself. He moves just in time but still not quick enough as the boar tears his clothes and cuts his hip. Nabal felt the fear rise up into his stomach then, as he contemplates this may be a creature of the Otherworld and it means business. He was never going to be able to out run the boar, especially in the dark; he would be running blind. And knowing this is a creature of the Goddess, she obviously wanted him for something. He stood his ground and stared into the creatures eyes once again. The boar charged and all Nabal could do was stand rooted to the spot and demand the boar holt. He pressed his will towards it with every fiber of his being. At the very last second, Nabal closed his eyes as he braced for impact. Nothing happened. He opened his eyes. Standing in front of him was a woman with untamed brown hair and a brown dress. She was calm and composed. He looked down and the boar was lying at his feet, quiet and still.
‘My name is Birkita’, before Nabal managed to say a word
‘What happened?’
‘You called me to help you and I did.’
‘You are the Goddess?’
‘No’, she replies with a rueful smile. ‘I am you. Or should I say another part of you. You showed great strength and courage to stand your ground with the boar. The Goddess is pleased with you. Yes, it was a test. You have received so much knowledge over the last few years from your mentors but what good is great knowledge if you do not have the Strength and courage to use it. The wildness of the boar was your inner wildness. You could just have easily defended yourself with a fallen branch or a magic stunt. But you didn’t’.
‘Once I recognized the eyes of the Goddesses in the boar, I knew I could not. Only a fool would do so. I would no more hurt the boar than hurt a new born babe.’
‘So you gave your life and trust over to the Goddess. Most wise. You have become a wise and knowledgeable man. You have done well. Your strength of character has now been proven’. The boar got up and trotted off. It stopped once to look behind and snorted and continued on its way.
‘So Birkita. How is this possible?’
‘I have laid dormant within yourself until you needed me and would then come forward. You are shocked I am a woman. Great strength is knowing your weaknesses and stepping forward anyway, in spite of them, to make your strengths even greater. It is not about brute force but your will -which you have just demonstrated. It is about having compassion and awareness of yourself and all that you are. It is time to go but know that I am always with you Nabal, just another guide on your quest…... But remember this: there will be more times you will be tested. Here you kept you cool head. You mastered your emotions, so therefore re-gained control. You took everything in from the situation and made your decision. Remember this Nabal.’ And then she was gone and the moon disappeared.

In the morning Nabal awakes feeling refreshed and revived. Better than he has felt in a long time. He makes a simple breakfast and tidies up his things. He decides to travel in a north-west direction. The sun shines brightly in a clear blue sky and Nabal is feeling optimistic on his path. The months have grown colder and the first touches of frost have kissed the grass and most stubborn of leaves, still clinging on to have the breeze rustle through them. Nabal watches a wren try to pick out a beetle and tweet his frustrations. The beetle looks as if he has survived another day as he burrows into a hole in the tree. And then Nabal watched as the wren looked right at him and held his gaze for what seemed like an age. Then the wren gave a cry and flew off into the distance to then land on a tree. Nabal felt something had just happened that was very special but he couldn’t say what. He felt as if something old and wise had looked into his being but it was only a bird. Nabal followed the bird anyway. Was this a foolish endeavour or something he needed to do as part of his journey? Nabal couldn’t decide but knew with each step, he needed to do this. Otherwise he would always be wondering ‘what if’. The wren led him to the east and flew as far as he could without Nabal losing him. He would then wait patiently by preening his feathers or looking for food.

After eight days, Nabal arrived at a mountain side. The weather was becoming fierce as wind and rain would attempt to blow him over. It was as if a force was trying to prevent him from reaching his destination. The wind howled in his ears, so Nabal wrapped his head in hoods and rags, leaving only his eyes free, preventing his face from stinging too much. He had luckily kept his staff from when he fell, which helped to support him up the craggy path. Often Nabal would have to stop to rest or the exhaustion would over take him or his leg would throb. But soon the wren would come back, tweeting encouragement and Nabal would get up and put one leg in front of the other again. He would recite songs, mantras and blessings he had learned along the way. The wind and rain howled and threatened to topple him off the mountain side on more than one occasion. This time Nabal knew he was far from anywhere and wouldn’t be lucky enough to find help if he should fall again. He took his time and contemplated his life and journey so far. He saw the wren fly into a cave and, finally, Nabal thought he would get a decent shelter tonight, although he had no wood for a fire, as the top of the mountain had become scarce of trees. Nabal entered the cave and it took his eyes a while to adjust but right at the back of the cave was faint light. He slowly walked closer in and realised there was a shadow holding the light; a lantern held by a tall man in a hooded robe. He walks forward also carrying a staff. An old man faces him with light blue eyes and white hair, with a beard trailing down his chest. He has a solemn, weathered face that has seen many years. He doesn’t say a word. Nabal, feeling uncomfortable and still catching his breath says, ‘I hope you don’t mind sharing this cave with me. I have been out in this weather for days now and I need some shelter.’ Nabal looks around for the wren but can’t see a sign of him.
The man finally answers after a few minutes, ‘Yes you may share my home though it is very basic. I don’t have many visitors.’ He smiles. Nabal looks around a little closer, now his eyes have adjusted more. He sees a pallet in the corner and an area that has food supplies and medicines. The cave has a tunnel that turns to the right. This was his home!
‘I’m sorry I didn’t realise. I....’
‘No. I brought you here. Or shall I say the wren brought you here. I am to be your mentor for the next few months. And once you have rested and been fed, we shall begin.’ And with that he turns away and down the tunnel. Nabal looks around and feeling confused and a little overwhelmed, follows. Nabal is shown his own pallet at the back of the adjoining cave. It was small and cold but there was a place set up for a fire and holes in the ceiling to vent out the smoke.

Over the next few weeks, Nabal watches and listens to the Hermit as he explains the importance of retreating from the worldly distractions, to listen to his inner voice. Nabal explains he is often by himself and meditates often. The hermit says he fills his mind with chatter and that he is still attached to the material world and needs to let go of this; his need to be needed – perhaps down to his own insecurities from his origins back home; that Nabal has been busy for some time with one person or another - learning, learning -but no time is allowed for it to be assimilated and integrated into his being. That it needs to sink in deep, if it is to stay and truly affect the spirit. Sometimes they would not talk for weeks. The hermit never shared anything of his past with Nabal. But Nabal gathered he had lived a long and full life and seen many things. He taught Nabal to journey to the lower world where he met his animal guides. He noted how different they were to the guides he had met so far from the middle world. They were deeper, darker and more intense but genuine and true. Over time he built up a lot of trust with his guides and the hermit.

People from villages would travel far to see the hermit for remedies, cures for loved ones or advice. They would bring offerings of food and utensils. And he would see them all, never turning anyone away. Nabal became consumed in his journeys, as every part of him is exposed and assessed by spirit and his guides. He is taught to make himself hollow; to be a clear and true vessel for the great work. He purges and journeys in this world and the Other. Thus, Nabal sees what he is really made of; his true strengths and weaknesses. One day during a journey, Nabal became unwell. He couldn’t come out of the journey and a fever erupted on his brow. His guides tried to help him. A dark figure was eating him piece by piece. He would try to run and hide from him but the shadow always found him. After most of the day like this the hermit dropped into a journey after much drumming and burning of sage. With his rattle, he rattled his way, searching for Nabal. The hermit with his own guides, found Nabal hiding in tears, as pain was ripping through his body and soul. The hermit took his hand and led him to a river. They get into a small boat and rowed down the river. Soon enough the hermit saw the shadow creature stalking them from the dense undergrowth and he was gaining on them.
‘You have to face him Nabal! Expose him for what he really is. I can’t save you. Only you can do that.’
‘He’s killing me. He’s too strong. I can’t do it.’ At that, Nabal’s guide tries to attack the shadow but runs off whimpering after the shadow takes a bite into him.
‘Face him or die here. Remember all that you have faced and achieved. You are stronger than you think you are. I will be right here but you need to do this.’

Nabal feels the strength of his guides with him. The hermit gives him a jewel which shines so brightly and he feels its power radiate through him. Something tells him to dive into the water and swim towards the shadow. And before he has a chance to even think about it, he’s in. The hermit shouts after him. ‘The light will guide you. Trust in it!’

The light of the jewel pulls him towards the shore. The shadow can’t be seen. Nabal walks deeper into the jungle. A salamander crosses his path. An owl flies over head and dives onto the face of the salamander scratching at its face. The ferocious attack leaves the salamander bleeding. A tear trickles down its face. The owl hoots and Nabal knows once again what he has to do. He collects the tear from the salamander just before it runs off. And at that Nabal runs too. He runs and runs, shouting for Shadow. The owl flies over head with Nabal’s coyote guide at his heels. Then he comes to a small clearing where he finds shadow waiting for him. Fool sees him and tastes the bile rise from his stomach and swallows it back down. He has to do this. Nabal runs at the shadow, shouting as he charges. He runs into him and throws the tear into the shadow’s face. It lets out a howl as it transforms into a younger version of Nabal, when he entered the court as a Fool, dressed in bright colours looking scared, his father looking ashamed, refusing to look at Nabal as he begs the house to take him on. How the court laughed at him. How clumsy and unsure he was. The taunts and fights. The tears and dreams. He saw himself get older and older; a man grown; used and abused by the court. He fails at everything but making people laugh. He clung to his dreams; an old man’s folly, leaving him with nothing but dreams that don’t keep him warm at night. The loneliness is overwhelming and Nabal found he had fallen to his knees and the Shadow self came forward. He then saw all that he would do to be accepted by society; to be needed and wanted. How his ego had grown and grown; his self-importance; how he thought his was leading the same life as his mentors; on the same path as they had been. But he saw his failings; his arrogance; how nothing would ever be good enough as he would always want more. Nabal could feel the shadow self start to feed off his fears once more. Nabal didn’t like any of these outcomes or dying here, now. He held on to the jewel and poured all his love into it. The love he had seen or had with the people he had met on his journey. The love he had developed for his guides, the world around him and the person he was. Good and bad. He poured all he could into it and handed it to the shadow self. The shadow took it and held onto it. He fed on this and right before his eyes, he got lighter and lighter until he became light itself and disappeared. The hermit appeared and led Nabal back to the gate where they could return to this world. Fool’s fever broke and he started to recover. Hermit nursed him for a few days and stayed by his side. But he became strong and well again. He had just turned one and twenty.

After some time, the hermit says he is ready for the next phase of his learning. Nabal is strong and healthy again and a very different man from the one who entered the cave all those months ago. Was it really ten months?

Hermit brings him down a very narrow passage with torches sporadically lit either side of it. The hermit seemed quieter today and withdrawn. He didn’t say anything to Nabal but would recite prayers to himself. They got to a wall with an engraving on it. It was a Wheel with eight segments. He knew it to be the Wheel of the Sabbaths: the festivals of the year. The hermit chants an incantation and the wall moves and another passageway opens.
‘This way.’ And so they walk on. ‘Remember all that I have taught you Nabal. And visit your guides often. Always trust in your intuition. When the time comes you will know what to do’, and the hermit turns round and looks at him and winks with a sad smile.
‘I know and I will. Is something wrong?’ asks Nabal, confused.
‘It’s time to give things up to fate. Or shall I say the fates.’

They came out onto a beach. The sun was shining and the waves gently lapping onto the shore. And there in the distance were three women dressed in black, spinning a Wheel with an unusual looking tread. As Nabal got closer he noticed one was an old women, one was a women of mothering years and the other not much older than a child. They showed no emotion and carried on with their work as they approached.
‘Fates of our destiny,’ he bows, ‘We come to watch and listen to your wisdom.’
‘Our wisdom is our own. But we will show Nabal the fabrics of life if that is what you wish’, replies the old one. Hermit bows his head. The young one takes Nabal by the hand and sits him at the wheel and shows him what to do. With every press of his foot, the wheel turned and the strange thread was fed through by the mother.

Nabal watched as he saw all the seasons change as his life began. The time when he was ill and almost died as a child and how the old woman sat next to him ready to cut his life force thread. But his mother managed to find a healer who turned the wheel of destiny. It wasn’t his time to die. But a balance was needed. And so months later he watched as his mother became unwell and the old woman held his mothers thread and cut it. He watched as his mother passed away and felt fresh tears touch his cheek. He saw his life and the times he was at a crossroads and didn’t know it. He saw his time near death from his recent journey and how the hermit had made a deal in exchange for his life. His own thread was becoming thin and fraying. Nabal realised he had tried to ignore it. He saw in the wheel a vision that the hermit dies here on the beach. That Nabal continued on his journey and faced many difficult trials and gained and lost so much on the way. He sees himself complete inside and out and truly whole with the universe. A deep sense of joy and contentment fills his soul. He sees how fragile life is and how you can work with destiny. Nabal saw the patterns of life and death and how working with it is the key.

Nabal looks at Hermit who smiles and winks at him but then a pain seems to seize him and then he falls to the ground. The old lady has cut his thread but the hermit turns back into the wren and flies right into Nabal’s solar plexus and disappears.
‘Very well done Nabal. You changed the pattern and sewn him into your life as a guide so he could not pass completely. He has taught you well.’
‘I knew he had the power to shapeshift into the wren. That is how he led me to him in the first place. He is now reborn as a wren; my guide. Until my life ends we are bound together.’
‘And what if this was not his destiny? Not what he wanted? Maybe he wanted a rest from this world?’ asked the young girl.
‘He knew it was his time but wasn’t ready to go. And I still have so much to learn from him. He hinted this could be done and said to trust my intuition; to believe in the cycles of life. If I succeeded, it was possible and maybe meant to be, if destiny allowed it. Which you did. If it didn’t work; it was meant to be and I could do nothing about it. As that is life. That is what you have taught me.’
‘Very well Nabal. You may go. We shall see you again.’ So Nabal walked back to the cave entrance and was swallowed up by the silence of its walls as it closed up around him.

When Nabal arrived back in the main chamber of the cave, a tall, mature woman awaits him. ‘I was looking for the hermit. I need him to help heal my daughter and tell me what I can do to help my husband’s crops grow. Where can I find him?’ She was dressed in a simple tunic with her blond hair braided down her back.
‘I’m sorry he’s not here’, sighed Nabal as the enormity of what just happened started to hit him. All his bravado leaving him, making him feel lethargic and weak. He slumps in a chair and rests his head in his hands.
‘But I need him now. And others from my village need him. When will he be back?’
Nabal shakes his head, ‘I’m sorry but he has passed away.’
‘And what can you do? Can you help the people who will travel to see the hermit? If you are his prodigy, can you not take his place?’
‘I, I can’t. I don’t know how. I can’t stay. I......’
‘Have a responsibility. You can’t turn your back on all these people.’
‘Please can you just give me some time?’
‘NO! Decisions need to be made now!’ And with that she flung her arms up in the air and her tunic fell away revealing a women in a blue dress. Her golden hair flew round her shoulders. She held the sword of Justice in her right hand and scales in her left. Nabal’s mouth dropped. ‘So you know of me?’
‘I didn’t realise’, replied Nabal as he dropped to one knee. ‘You took the hermit’s spirit without his consent. Someone needs to fill his role here. And he needs to voice his thoughts on this. You must free him.’
‘I don’t know how.’
‘Think of him and project him out. Call him within yourself. He is your guide and is never far. He will hear you and respond.’ Nabal did as she asked and after a few minutes wren (the hermit) came flying out and rested on Fool’s shoulder. ‘Come here hermit.’ Wren flew and landed on one of the scales. ‘Is this truly what you wished for? Is this what you want? Did you imply to Nabal to do this?’
The hermit’s thoughts resounded in their heads as he had lost his human voice.
‘Yes. I still have so much to teach and this is a new journey for me. I have dedicated years and years of my life to others. It led me to be abused by the powers of the order. I still gave to others and never turned away a sorrowful soul who entered my cave, even though all I wanted was solitude to develop my own abilities. My time was coming to an end and now I can do what I have always wished. I was scared. I can’t deny it. But what fool wouldn’t be? Nabal didn’t know what he was walking into but he passed the fates’ test and learnt from them and followed my instructions.’
The lady of Justice turned and looked at Nabal. ‘And do you wish for this? To have hermit as your guide attached to you in this way?’ Nabal looked to wren for a long time. Long enough for the hermit to think he was going to say no. But he didn’t. ‘Yes this is what I want.’
‘And what about the villages? This is an isolated spot. Will you stay here fool to help them?’
‘I…erm. I...’
‘I know of someone who can replace me here’, replies the hermit wren as he flies back to Nabal.
‘So be it. Make it so. While we wait for the replacement, a challenge has to be faced.’
‘Oh please. I’m still recovering from the last challenge.’
‘That is of your own making. You bent the rules, fooled the fates and took someone else’s spirit for your own.’
‘But........’. The lady raises her hand to signal him to stop and so he does.
‘I know you were manipulated to do so and this benefits you both but still there have to be consequences for your actions. You will go into the valley and there become the Hanged Man, tied on an ash tree. You will stay like this for nine days without food or water. If you should survive then you truly will achieve what destiny has planned for you.’
‘But he’s not ready! shouted wren.
‘He needs to be’,  replied the Lady of Justice and with that she disappeared.
‘So what now wren?’ sighed Nabal.
‘You rest and have a very large dinner. You’re going to need it.’

The next day Nabal made his way down to the valley below. It took half the day to make his way down to the ash tree, following instructions from wren, towards the river Que. A heron was standing by the tree, looking out over the water. He turned his head on their approach and took to the air; his mighty wings making the only noise that could be heard. Nabal tied a small bag of food to a branch, to save from scavengers so he could have something small to eat once he was loose. If he could that is. He took his water flask and took a couple of gulps of water and tied a knot around his foot as he had been instructed. He then climbed up the tree and found a branch with mistletoe growing on it, that was high enough and strong enough to take his weight.  He looped the rope round and tied it. He took a deep breath. This was it. He let go and allowed his body to swing down. He found it more comfortable to tuck his hands behind his back into his waistband. The blood started to pump loudly in his ears and he felt as if his face was swelling up. He tried to relax so looked at his surroundings and thought how different the world looks from this angle. He called upon wren but wren would not come. He resigned to the fact he was to do this on his own.

Nabal watched the grass sway in the breeze and the sound it made. He listened to the river flowing as the odd salmon leapt from its watery depths. He listened to the sounds of the world around him and soon closed his eyes. He listened to the sound of his breathing and tried to relax. He couldn’t feel his feet or much of his lower leg anymore. His other leg he left crossed in the shape of an inverted 4. Nabal dozed on and off over the twenty-four hours. Time seems to almost stop as his muscles start to cramp and he desperately wants to set himself free. But he can’t. Not until he had seen this through. He thought about giving up but couldn’t let Wren down and he had to prove it to himself that he could do this. Nabal watches as the heron flies over his head and does it again the following day. The heron starts to ignore him and returns to his spot by the waterside, waiting for his catch. ‘Is he trying to tease me?’ thought Nabal. Nabal contemplates how different the word looks and how he must look now if somebody saw.

He finds it harder and harder to endure and therefore goes into a meditative state. Here he manages to withdraw from the world and finds a place of serenity which radiates on his face. Nabal realises for once he has no control over this. His other challenges were about what he could learn or give or teach. If he failed he could always try again. As this understanding sinks in, Nabal notices that he should feel a fear over this but finds that it doesn’t come. He thought about his reasons for doing this and what led him here with the three fates. He had had a slow year with the hermit and then all at once he made a decision and this is the result. And still he had been thinking of proving himself and not letting others down. Of gaining more knowledge! But that was his ego talking. This was something greater, beyond that. All this time he had been running from who he was, trying to be something much more; for his father, for his village and for his peers. So Nabal could find happiness in being ‘successful’ but it was for them. What did Nabal want? He thought he wanted to be like magician, hierophant or the hermit. But that wasn’t who Nabal was. He suddenly realised he needed to find himself.

He felt a stabbing in his side and then another and another. He could hear cries of carrion. He realised crows had come to feast on the morsel of food dangling from the tree and him. He felt his life blood pour from his wounds. Nabal felt he was now touching the door to oblivion and felt ready to surrender to the rhythms of life and let it be. But then he heard a noise and he suddenly felt as if he was flying. He had become a heron and was flying with his brother! They flew down the river towards fields of bright yellow, green and brown. Saw animals and huts. They watched life and death in all its glory. He felt free and so alive like nothing he could ever compare to. He is taken to a barren land where he makes his descent. He lands in front of a great cyst; a high mound of large smooth stones. A spiral is circling it and in its centre is the entrance. It is cold and dark as fool makes his way down the steps. He changes from bird to man with each step. The heron waits outside. The air becomes colder and colder until he enters a chamber with torches mounted to the wall. A great cauldron stands in the centre with smoke creeping and dancing up to the sky.  A woman comes forward with a ravens head. She stands in a green robe with her breasts exposed. Her body is ageing but Nabal knows this is where her power comes from.
‘Welcome to my home Nabal. Not many come in search for me.’
‘A heron led me here. Am I dead?’
‘Not yet, no. You are still hanging from the tree’, she said as she stirred her cauldron, looking deep into it. ‘Do you want to be?’
‘No. I just want to........’
‘Want to what? You don’t know anymore do you? You lost your way and forgot who you are. Who are you?’
‘I am Nabal, he says defiantly.
‘Not anymore. I am Death. Do you give yourself to me? Wholly? Let go of the old so that the new can be reborn’

Nabal knew all that he was, was fading away. He needs something but the fear of letting go; of the unknown… He had changed but wasn’t sure what he was changing into. He decides he has no choice but to agree. She takes him by the hand and leads him to another chamber where death seduces him. He recoils at first but then feels his sexual arousal rises. Her sexuality, confidence and passion is immense. They devour each other as they join as one. He gives everything of himself over to her as their love making becomes more frantic and desperate. Then once his seed is spent, she then carries him exhausted to her cauldron, where she lovingly places him. She chants incantations and adds items to this brew. To Nabal, the world is spinning and he sees only flashes of colour and sound. His heart beats faster and faster as the pace quickens. He thought he would feel empty but he feels exhilarated and full of anticipation. His ego has died; she takes it out of the cauldron like a child and wraps it in a cloth. He is full of love and compassion for himself and sees the child he has been and his vulnerability. He now loves and holds dear his weaknesses as much as his strengths. Just when his dizzying joy reaches its peak, she holds onto his face and drops a kiss on his brow. She whispers something and then everything goes black as he feels his body is being crushed and shoved. He is blind in the darkness, scrabbling to find something to touch or hold onto. He is no longer in the cauldron but falling with great force into something. He then feels a bright light on his face and an intense heat. His body is in agony and he hears a squawking around him. He slowly opens his eyes and is blinded by the light; the Sun. He is hanging once again on the tree.

‘Ah you made it!’ says wren, who is standing by his head looking up at him. ‘I didn’t think you were going to make it.’ Nabal tried to answer him but he had no voice and his throat burned. He was delirious.
‘No don’t try and talk. You won’t be able to for a while. Now get ready.’ Wren flew up to the branch and pecked at the rope that bound his foot. He pecked and pecked. Wren had been pecking the rope for the past few days making it thinner and finer; ready for when Nabal would be released. And Nabal then fell to the ground with a thump and a groan. The crows flew off shouting their protests. He reached for his bag and found an adder wrapped round it. He moved it free and drank the water within it. It was warm but he didn’t care. He drank and drank. ‘Wow, slow down! Easy! You have to reintroduce these things to your body. Have a bite of the bread and then just rest.’ Nabal sat up against the tree and stretched out his body. Everything ached and protested with each movement. He found dried blood in his clothes from where the birds had pecked at him. He found the wounds under his clothes but they had strangely already healed. All he had was the scar and the bruising.

After a while an old man came to the river. He introduced himself as Hugor. He was going to replace the hermit in the cave. He had been foretold the passing of the hermit in his runes and made preparations. Then a strange wren had led him to this river. He eventually recognised this wren to be his friend the hermit.
‘Come Nabal you need a proper place to rest and recover. I have made a shelter over here for us’,said Hugor, as he took Nabal by the arm and started to lead him away.
‘I, urgh, I am no longer Nabal. My name is Aydin’. Hugor bowed his head with a smile and so they made their way to the shelter.

It took Aydin seven months to recover from his ordeal and adjust to his new perspective of the world. He decided to stay with Hugor in the cave where so much had happened. In such a short amount of time, Aydin felt he had been through a whirlpool. He had learned to harmonize his inner and outer worlds together and step freely between the two. He had surrendered himself to death and the fates; to the Otherworld entirely.  He uses his intuition and common sense in harmony with one another. Aydin learned to slow things down again to give time for these forces to settle within him. He used mindfulness to engage with the here and now; allow time to just flow through him. Aydin found a way to balance himself mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And through this he found a deep peace and acceptance of himself. Hugor called this Temperance and had commissioned an arm band of a red and white snakes, intertwined with one another, thus representing the opposing forces that he has managed to bring harmony within himself; his encounter with life and death and then its resurrection.

Aydin journeyed down in the valley and watched nature unfold. He strolled along the river and walked barefoot on the grassy bank.  A light was up ahead and he followed it to a willow tree, dipping its leaves in the water. As he stepped through the curtain of leaves, an angel appeared with a rainbow bridge reaching out from behind her, reaching up to the heavens. She was beautiful and serene, pouring a liquid from a silver vessel into one of gold.  Aydin was mesmerised until the thought ‘Oh no what are they going to make me do now?’
A melodious voice sang in his head. ‘Don’t worry Aydin. I am here to congratulate you and say to continue as you are. Enjoy the quietness for some time as, soon enough, you will be tested again.’ And with that she was gone.

One day Aydin was helping Hugor with healing villagers who visited the cave. When a woman came in with a child wrapped in her arms, asking if Aydin was here. Hugor asked ‘Who wants to know?’
‘Arianne’, she replied pulling back his hood. Aydin came back at the sound of her voice. They stared at each other for a long time. Both recognised the changes that had taken place in each other’s faces. Lines and ageing had set in such a short space of time. It wasn’t until the child started to grumble that Aydin remembered he was standing there.
‘This is Cory. He is five months old and sick. He has this rash and cries all the time. So I came looking for you, asking the villages that you passed. We had to rely on the help of strangers. Oh please Nabal! Don’t turn us away’, she said running into his arms. Aydin embraced her and held her so close. It felt like forever since he smelt her skin and felt the warmth of her. The baby between them wriggled and Aydin looked into a face so like his own with Arianne’s red curls. Big lilac eyes stared back at him.
‘I would never turn you away Arianne. Oh how I’ve missed you. I’m sorry, I never thought.....’
‘I know. You couldn’t have.’
A huge, tall man with a wild beard came in and cleared his throat. ‘I see you’ve found him then.’
‘Oh yes, thank you Cern. This is Nabal.’
‘Actually my name is now Aydin. A lot has changed,' replied Aydin.
‘Oh I see.’ Arianne looked down
‘Thank you Cern for looking after my family. Please stay while you recover. Have you come far?’
‘Yes. Arianne here had been caught in a storm after leaving the dales. I came across her and she refused for me to take her back. I couldn’t let her and the babe go out on their own and she was so determined.  So I helped her along. A man should know his child.’
‘Thank you Cern. Come be rested. There is a lot to catch up on.’

They went into Aydin’s chamber while Hugor finished with the villagers and made his excuses to leave. Arianne explained what had happened since Aydin left and how the village had pulled together to help her. Cern drank some ale as they listened. Hound was still at home working for her father in the fields.  After a few days the three of them went into the valley as Aydin told his story of the tree and his journey. Cern carried Cory in his arms as they approached the river, listening to Aydin. Arianne was shocked to hear what he had gone through and realised this is what had caused a lot of the hollowness on her beloved’s face. She explained that she wanted them to stay with Aydin, while he said that this wouldn’t work. If Cory was sick it would endanger him and that this was his quest that he had to do himself. They bickered and bickered as to what to do. Cern looked down at the baby in his arms. The clouds darkened and collected above them. The couple stopped talking as the world became dark and rumbles were heard in the sky. Cern put Cory on the ground and a clash of lightening struck the sky. As they reopened their eyes a chain was around their throats, linked to one another and then leading to Cerns hands.
‘Hey! What is this?!’ cried Aydin. And with that Cern seemed to grow even bigger, and horns grew from his head. A great stag came by his side and dipped his head at him in greeting. 
‘My name is Cernunnos, although some like to call me Devil. I believe you met my consort. Lady Death. You think that your learning is done for now Aydin. Well it isn’t. You think you are stronger and can learn more on your own. That Arianne would hold you back or that you have to choose one or the other. Your negative thinking here is holding you back, not her. Your journey doesn’t need to be done by yourself. You let the hound go and now you are pushing your partner away. You have a son now and have responsibilities; created the most amazing feats; you created new life! This doesn’t mean the learning stops. You have to find a balance of both. You won’t move forward if your heart is split in two places. These chains are the chains you are putting over yourselves and one another. You are stronger together and you son needs you both now. Your willpower will pull you through. Remember.’
‘Horned one, father of the forest. Forgive my ignorance. My fears and selfish needs have made me run from my responsibilities. Once again I am holding myself back, scared to be close to anyone for long. Scared I couldn’t support Arianne as she deserved. Arianne deserves better and I can give her that now. And Cory.’
‘And I will not hold him back on his quest. After listening to Aydin and seeing what he has achieved, I know I cannot stop him on this quest and he needs to do this. I only want to be a part of that. I want my son to know his father and for Aydin to find a way of healing him. I won’t use my emotions against him.’
‘Remember who you are and what you are together. New life is precious and Cory needs to start his journey in life as much as you need to complete yours.’

And with that Cernunnos tied their chains to his belt and held a mirror in each hand. Fool and Arianne stepped forward and saw their own reflections but then they found they couldn’t look away or step back. The world, for them went black and both felt alone. As they looked in, they saw their very dark, hidden selves that they would never let anyone else see. They watched as their reflections took on a will of their own; jumping, dancing, fortifications with hidden faces; lies told and manipulations made; the fearful, hateful language against others and themselves; their cheating and selfish acts, those acted upon or just thought of; their most basic wants and desires. They watched as the consequences of these actions played out and people around them got hurt. Their self disgust grew like bile rising in their throats. Aydin knew he carried this within him still and as much as he may feel like this at times, he had the strength to make the choice and not act on it or run away. This wasn’t the man he wanted to be. He had come too far to let these impulsions drag him back. He reached for Arianne’s hand and shouted her name. He told her to reach for his hand. She didn’t move.
‘Now Arianne! We don’t have to be this. It isn’t us. We won’t let it take over. Together we are strong. Believe in me. Believe in us!’ Aydin stretched over as far as he could. Their fingers touched and they managed to lock fingers.
‘I believe you!’
‘It’s not enough. You have to believe in yourself Arianne. Can you believe in the both of us? Together?’
‘Yes! Yes I do.’

A wind blew once again blinding the couple. The mirrors were gone, the clouds had cleared, the sun was shining and Cory was back in Cern’s arms. Aydin looked around and noticed he still had the chain around his neck, as did Arianne. ‘What about these?’ he asked, picking them up.
‘They were always loose and you could have slipped them over you heads whenever you wished. I just let you see them. You choose when to be free of them.’

Aydin lifted the chain over his head and sure enough it went over and he dropped it to the ground where it disappeared in a thick black smoke. Arianne then did the same. Cern placed Cory into Arianne’s arms and gave her a kiss on the cheek. As they looked up Cern smiled and transformed into a white stag and ran into the woods with the stag. He was gone.
‘But what about Cory? You can heal him!’Arianne called after him
‘No. If he was going to do that he would have done it. Let’s go back.’

As the weeks passed, Cory became sicker as he couldn’t hold his food down and his temperature started to rise. He hated bright lights and cried even harder when they left the cave. Aydin tried all the medicine concoctions he knew. Hugor tried and helped with the medicines he knew. He even travelled to the Ballinton mountains to find the most sacred of medicinal herbs but it came to no avail. Cory got worse and Arianne became more and more desperate. She prayed to the Mother every day and paid daily devotions to her, wishing for her intervention. She got snappy with Aydin and even with Hugor. Cory started to become weaker and his fever grew until one night he slipped into a coma. Wren woke Aydin from his dreams telling him something was wrong. When Aydin checked on the boy, he knew his son was passing away.

‘Wake up Arianne. Go get Hugor. NOW!’ She stumbled up as she ran to the adjoining chamber and brought Hugor. Aydin  burnt sage to cleanse himself and the space around them. He lit candles and created a bed on the floor next to Cory. He surrounded himself with his magical tools and deities and started reciting a prayer. When Hugor came in, he could see what his friend was going to attempt so ran back and brought two drums; one for him and one for Arianne.

Soon the three were ready and standing around Cory in a circle. Hugor wore a bear’s head and cloak and called upon his guides. Arianne held a rabbit’s foot around her neck and Aydin wrapped himself in a wolf skin cloak and started to chant. The drums started to pound and Aydin hammered on his own drum, closing his eyes, breathing deeply. He heard Arianne whimpering but managed to drown her out.

Aydin dropped into the middle world and laid down next to his son, holding his hand. The drumming thumped through his chest, quickening his pace as he searched for his guides. He was met by Old Grey, a wolf and Eagle. Together they would search for Cory. They led him from their meeting place and set off at a great pace. They ran and ran with Eagle guiding the way. The weather here started getting wilder as rain lashed down on them. It became dark and Aydin heard a great roar! He called out for Cory but heard nothing. Eagle started circling up in the sky indicating he had found the place. Grey and Aydin came to a lake with a tower built in the middle of it. The sky rumbled again and they saw lightening in the distance, heading their way. Aydin stepped into lake and started to wade in. Eagle swooped down from behind him and took hold of his shoulders and lifted him up just in time as a water dragon came snapping up after them. Grey howled from the bank and ran off. Aydin was then dropped at the path leading up to the Tower.
‘Cory!’

Aydin ran up the path and went through the front door. As he burst through he saw his own father and a scene from his childhood. His father was telling him what a disappointment he was. He then saw the time his father tried to get rid of him; and then the time he heard his father telling his friend how he wished he had never been burdened with such a boy.  And so the visions went on. Aydin felt the heartache in his chest all over again. Self-doubt started creeping in again. Then something bit his arse.
Aydin spun round and Grey was there.
‘Don’t fall for it Aydin. You are not him. Go get your son!’ said Grey.
Aydin ran up the stairs and opened every room. A roar rumbled through the air again. ‘Cory!’

Aydin found Cory huddled under a table with a lynx wrapped round him. This was his guide and she wasn’t going to let him go too easily. Aydin spoke to her and Cory.
‘It’s ok. I am here. I will look after you.’
‘And where were you man? Where were you when he needed you?’
‘I didn’t know. But I know now. I will look after him.’
‘But you still didn’t want him. You only thought about yourself. He was an inconvenience for you. You are just as bad as your father.’
‘No that’s not true. It was a shock but I can be a good father. I can be a better man; with his help. Please! Give me a chance!’

Aydin stepped forward and Cory gave out a wail as the lynx hissed a warning at Aydin.
Aydin slumped back and the lightning struck much closer this time. Aydin felt he was losing Cory and time was running out. Grey and Eagle came and settled next to him. The lynx became even more protective of her human cub. Aydin can’t hide his despair any longer as tears well up and break free from his eyes. He sits and sobs into his hands, his body shaking.
‘Please Cory. I love you. You are my boy and I love you. Please come home with me so we can be a family and I can make it up to you. The three of us together again.’
Lightning strikes the tower and part of the roof caves in on them and falling debris lands all around them. ‘Come on we have to go! shouts Aydin as he stretches his hand out for Cory. The lynx picks the boy up by his clothes and gives him to Aydin. ‘We have to get away from him’, explains the lynx.
‘Who?’ asks Aydin.  And then he knows. As the water dragon has climbed up the tower and roared as it entered the tower from the fallen walls. Aydin realises he is the illness plaguing Cory and doesn’t want him to leave. Lynx is his protector and who Cory feels safe with. She must be familiar to him through his dreams. Grey led them through the tower as rubble fell from all around them. The dragon was hot on their heels as he chased after them. They hid under a stairway as the dragon went running past. Fire was ablaze and the tower started to collapse. They took their chance as the coast was clear and ran out towards the lake. ‘Quick take him!’ shouted Aydin, as he lifted Cory up to the sky for Eagle to take to safety. Eagle took hold and flew off into the distance.
‘This way!’ called Grey, as they followed the route he had taken to the tower. The dragon caught them just as they got to the bridge. He roared into the sky and lightening lit up the sky behind him making his scales glisten in the light.

All this time Aydin had been composed and patient; trusting and good; he had kept his emotions in check and done all that was asked. However, he was not going to let something get in the way of him and his son; all his anger and resentments towards this illness, his father, his previous hurts; the hurt his son and Arianne were feeling; the frustration of getting so close, all spilled out. He screamed at the dragon with everything he had. It wasn’t a conscious decision. It just erupted from him. Grey and Lynx did the same and sent it all towards the dragon. Together, all this force and emotion created a big ball of light in front of them, red and glowing, swirling in a fury. Aydin didn’t know how he knew, but he took it in his hands and threw it with as much force as he could muster, at the dragon. The dragon started to shrink and the earth started to shake. As the dragon shrank to the size of a dog, the ground started to open up. A huge green dragon raised his mighty head out and snapped up the dragon. He looked at them for a long time and then went back down into the earth. Aydin and the guides ran across the bridge and made their way to Eagle. They found Eagle pecking at Cory’s legs and Cory crying. Aydin looked more closely and saw the damage that had been inflicted on Cory and Eagle was attempting to remove the poison in his legs. Lynx went to the water’s edge and waded in. She came back carrying an egg. A dragons egg.
‘This is his. He will need it someday. The dragon has damaged his legs. He will never run or climb trees. But with the healing from Eagle he can now walk but not far and always with a crutch. He has paid a dear price for your lessons. Don’t let history repeat itself ‘fool’.’ Aydin took the egg. ‘You have my word.’ Lynx went up to Cory now that Eagle had finished and licked the boys legs and then once on the face, which made him chuckle. And then she left into the bushes.

‘Go now Aydin. Hurry!’ replied Grey.  Aydin picked up Cory and made his way to a great old oak tree. He walked into its hollow trunk and turned round. Both his friends had gone. He closed his eyes and opened them up outside the cave. He walked in and carried Cory to his body and placed him next to it. He then placed the egg next to him. Hugor was still thumping on the drum, chanting away and Arianne was on her knees holding her son’s hand, shaking a rattle. Aydin whispered in his son’s ear, ‘I will keep my promise son’, and kissed him on the forehead. He then went back into his own body. When he opened his eyes he took the hand of Cory’s spirit and guided him back into his body, telling him there was nothing to be afraid of. Then he took the egg and blew this into his son’s spirit. He sang a prayer and sealed him up with a rattle. He then collapsed next to him as Cory woke up. He reached for Aydin who picked him up and held him close, sobbing. Arianne choked back her tears and joined in on the hug. Hugor sat back, ‘Well done lad! Well done!’ he said, wiping his hand across his face.

Over the next few months, Cory regained his strength but as the lynx predicted, his legs never fully recovered. Aydin found a piece of land fertile enough to grow some vegetables and build a home. He made ready the preparations and felt content in creating a safe, proper home for his family. He wanted to stay in the area and said they could travel to Arianne’s village once a year to see her loved ones. She was happy with this. They had both grown very fond of Hugor and wanted him to be close. He also loved Cory and it was useful to have him around in times of need. Aydin was content and enjoyed the quietness their home had to offer. Neighbours were miles away but they were still a part of society and found a place within it.

One night Aydin stepped outside. He and Arianne had been trying to settle Cory as his legs went into spasm, cramping his legs so they hurt. A little one shouldn’t have to contend with such pain and discomfort. But he never complained and did his best to keep up with the other children. Arianne had found Cory hiding in the barn earlier, crying because a few older boys had been taunting him over his legs. Cory always tried to be so brave but it broke their hearts to watch him. Arianne was inside, telling him a story. Aydin looked up into the night sky and watched as the stars twinkled down. Seven stars glistened more brightly and he felt a peace wash over him as he started to relax. This was Cory’s challenge and he had to support him. But he could never do it for him or protect him from all the woes his disability would bring. Aydin was about to go back inside when he saw a shooting star cross the seven stars. He knew such a thing was a good omen and he should make a wish, so he started to offer up a prayer for Cory. Then he saw the same shooting star loop round and come towards him skimming over the trees in the distance. The ball of light then arrived just in front of him. The light shone brighter and a woman, naked as her name day appeared with a veil of light, light blue over her. Aydin was speechless.
‘I heard your call Aydin and I am here to help. I am a gatekeeper of the Sacred Pool. And I can invite you to come with me but I can only offer this once. Will you come?’
‘This will help Cory? I have to make some preparations but I will be ready by first light. Just.......’
‘No. I am sorry but it’s now or never. It will help Cory.’ And she extended her hand.

Aydin looked back at his home and his family. ‘Am I really going to leave them again?’ he thought and turned round to see the woman fading. He quickly held her hand and with that, a flash of light flared and they shot off into the sky to the middle of the seven stars. A swirl of other stars formed and a portal opened and swallowed them up and was gone.

Aydin found himself at a pool with five waterfalls flowing into it. A mist rose from its marine coloured waters. Rocks surrounded its banks and trees surrounded the rocks. There was a clearing of grass to the right of the pool before it was enveloped in trees. The pool trickled down into a stream that led away from the woods. As Aydin looked up, he noticed the sky was the wrong way round. The stars he had known were facing the wrong way.
‘This is the pool of healing; of hopes and wishes. I am Tara.’
‘A Star!’ exclaimed Aydin in wonder. ‘You’re from the heavens - a goddess.’
‘Yes. I am the gatekeeper to the Waters of Life. Now the pool won’t accept anyone. You have to be accepting of yourself. If your spirit is like the pool - still and calm; complete and whole - then it may share its magic with you.’

Tara stepped into the pool and a light shone from her feet and extended out over the water, making the whole pool glow. She took two jugs from a rock and went to the waterfalls and filled them up. From there, she walked out to the middle of the pool. She called Aydin to join her. He stripped off and joined her in the pool.
‘Having a free and open heart is the only way to have strength combined with compassion. Together this brings a deeper connection to the source of life. Are you ready?’
‘Yes,’ his voice croaks.
‘You accept the healing waters to wash through your unconscious; to be drunk and consumed; healing all ills of your being; to embrace the goddess within all; of you, your son and the land?’
‘I do.’
‘Then lay back and let the water claim you.’ She then put her hand to the back of his head and guided him to the water as he laid back. Then she took the jug of water and poured the water into his mouth and over his face and body, all the while singing in a language Aydin had never heard before. The sky seemed to whiz past them at high speed. She then gently submerged him into the waters and there he saw another world emerge from the pool’s depths; of beings not human and a city of light.

He didn’t know how long he had been in the water but he was brought out with a start. He crawled out onto the bank. He felt more alive and revitalised than he had ever felt before in his life. He was glowing.
‘This is for you’, she handed him the other jug. ‘Pour most of this onto the land, so it can be healed and nurtured. The rest give to your son to drink and pour over his legs. Use every drop. It cannot be saved for later. It has to be used straight away. Do you understand?’
‘Yes, I do.’
‘Then you are ready.’ She looked past his shoulder and as Aydin turned he saw The High Priestess, he had met so many years ago.
‘Hello Aydin. I have been watching your progress. You have accomplished much in this time.’ She was more beautiful than Aydin remembered. He cleared his throat.
‘It is good to see you High Priestess.’
‘It is time we moved on. Come’, and she turned and walked back into the woodlands. Aydin looked back at Tara and she smiled and started to fade. Aydin followed the Priestess.

As they walked he started to recognise the landscape. He heard the sound of the waves and started to see the spires of her tower looming in the distance. She explained that this was like a dream and she had been contacted by spirit to help him at this time. She had left her body to journey here now at the time of this full moon. If he succeeds with Tara, then he should be prepared for this.
‘This is the time for your inner-self Aydin. I know you saw the world in the pool. Those who aren’t ready would never have seen it. With what you are about to face, you need to trust your feelings, instincts and intuition. These are the qualities of the goddess. They are within you also. You have seen your shadow-self and you have been tested. Now accept the goddess within and pay attention to what lies dormant within you, seeking to come out; your psychic ability. Trust in her and let her guide you. Let her Moon illuminate the path at times of darkness.’

As they reached a stone path with dark bare trees creating a border; Aydin saw a wolf; his wolf from the Lower world waiting for him on the path. And next to him was the Hound.
‘How is Hound here? He is with Arianne’s parents. He is real.’
‘He has always been a companion. For as long as you needed him. The distance means nothing. Both of them represent you. The wolf is the untamed animal within and the Hound is the well domesticated side, we share with the world.’ Hound started to wag his tail at their approach and Aydin stroked his neck. Grey, the wolf, looks at him with his yellow eyes and an unspoken greeting was made.
‘You’re not coming with me are you?’
‘No. This is where my path stops. This you do on your own with your guides. Remember what I’ve said. I will take your jug of water. Don’t worry, not a drop will be spilt. It will be waiting for you when you get back.’ She took the jug and started walking away. Both Hound and Grey sat on their haunches and howled at the moon. And then ran off down the path. Aydin followed after them.

The shadows seem to move under the trees and strange noises erupted around him. Arianne came rushing out onto the path, screaming and crying, saying their home had been invaded by men in arms. They had hurt her and killed Cory. He held onto her as she sobbed and he sobbed along with her. She wanted him to come back and bury Cory; to find these men and bring them to justice. He started to walk back down the path with her when Grey came back and growled at her. She was scared and hid behind Aydin. He told Grey off and told him to leave her alone. And the Hound came out and went for Arianne from behind. He went to bite her leg but she moved in time. Aydin knew Hound would never do that as he adored Arianne. He looked at her and closely in her eyes. This wasn’t Arianne.
‘No you are not her. I’m not going with you.’ Aydin shook her off and started walking away.
‘No Aydin please! I need you, don’t leave me on my own again! You can’t let me down again!’ That hurt Aydin but he remembered what the High Priestess had said. He had to trust his guides and his instincts. This wasn’t her.
‘I said no!’ and he shoved her back and walked away. He looked round after a few paces and saw nothing. The Hound and Grey waked by his side.

After that Aydin saw more and more of his fears, from spiders to his family; to his own death and evil creatures lurking in the dark. They taunted and pulled at him. At times, Aydin would almost be convinced but his guides helped him along the way. After many hours they came to two standing stones with runes inscribed along them. The moon hung in between them creating a glow in the sky. As he stepped towards the stones, he felt a resistance. He tried to walk through again but was pushed back. Aydin thought about reasons as to why he couldn’t pass. But then he realised. One of his fears was not succeeding in this quest. He knew he could do it, so by listening to his intuition he walked through, knowing whatever was on the other side, he could deal with it. He stepped through onto an egg shaped dome, surrounded by the sea’s waves gently lapping at its sides. A woman stood in the middle of it. She was pregnant and gave Aydina knowing smile.
‘I am the goddess you seek Aydin. You have faced all the challenges I have set you. Come and let me bestow the gift upon you.’ Aydin knelt down at her feet. She lifted him by the chin and was suddenly an old crone. She kissed him on the forehead just between the eyebrows. ‘You now have the second sight. Use it wisely.’ When he stood up she became a young maiden. ‘Your son will be healed and he will be blessed too’.
‘You are the triple goddess; Goddess of the moon.’
‘Yes and so much more. You have been initiated by The High Priestess in all the feminine mysteries. Soon you will be initiated too in the masculine. Your journey is reaching its conclusion and so the circle continues.’ And with that she became the mother again and disappeared. Tara stood behind him with Hound and Grey either side.
‘Come, take my hand.’ Together they held hands and once again flew through the air.

Aydin opened his eyes and found himself standing back outside his home and it was still dark although he knew he had been gone hours. A light flew across the sky and twinkled back at him as it found its place in the sky. Aydin found the jug of healing water right by his feet, waiting for him as the High Priestess had promised. Aydin was about to run in with it when he remembered he had to pour some water onto the land first. So he poured some on the land and circled it around his home thanking the goddess for this blessing. He then rushed into the house to explain where he had been. Arianne was telling a story to Cory.
‘I am here, don’t worry.’
‘Don’t worry? You only just went outside.’ Arianne looked closer at him. ‘Are you ok? You looked flushed. What is that?’ pointing to the jug.
‘It’s for Cory. Cory drink this. It is just water but it’s really, really good for you.’ Aydin   poured the water into Cory’s opened mouth. He gulped it down and then poured and rubbed the remaining water onto his legs. There wasn’t a change. But Cory went to sleep, while Aydin told Arianne all that had happened.

The next morning Aydin heard a scream and jumped up and out of bed. He ran to Cory’s bed and he wasn’t there. He looked around and saw no sign of him. He went outside as he heard it again. Cory was running around the house in circles, as fast as he could, screaming in a shrill excitement. He was running! And where he ran, grew a bed of flowers and fruit bushes. The start of green was also extending from this, all where Aydin had poured the water. Arianne came out and saw her son running, unaided, free of pain. She fell to her knees and cried. Aydin stood and never felt so grateful or humble as he did at that moment.

That day Aydin and Cory spent their time doing all the activities that they couldn’t do before. They went swimming naked in the nearby lake under the rays of the scorching Sun. They raced and played, jumped and sang. Aydin was happier than he could ever remember. His worries and burdens were forgotten. He felt like a child again, himself, and he fully embraced it. They were full of joy and energy. Aydin was full of contentment. All his struggles and adventures over the last few years had paid off as his son was full of life.  The sun felt as if it was joining them in their frolics and they felt the warmth penetrate through their naked skins.

As they came out of the water from playing chase, they saw the strangest thing. A young boy of Cory’s age came riding on a white horse toward them. He wore no saddle and was completely naked, but he wore the biggest beaming smile. ‘I am the son of the Sun!’ he cried. ‘I am here to play and spread the joy of the sun!’

They continued to have an amazing day. Arianne cooked them a beautiful dinner and as the day came to an end, Cory went to bed, exhausted but happy. Aydin sat with him until he fell asleep. ‘May the sun shine on all that you do Cory.’ He kissed him on the brow and left.

Many months later, Aydin was working on his field. Since he had poured the healing water over his land it had grown almost overnight with crops and vegetables. They bought some farm animals to help work the land and made a nice living supplying local villages with food and medicinal herbs and tinctures. Sometimes Aydin would be asked to perform a marriage ceremony or festival but he would avoid these if he could and made up excuses, as he didn’t want to be far from Cory or Arianne. After being away from them for so long and missing out on so much, he didn’t want to let them down again. He also was scared in case anything should happen to Cory. They would travel to the town for a large market that came together every other month. Life was good. But Arianne felt differently. At first she was happy to see Aydin so dedicated to his family and spending time with them both. But then she started to see the little signs of how he missed the work he had started on his journey. He was happy, yes, but there was something missing. He was denying himself of his gift. She wanted him to be truly happy and as Cory would get older he would see this too. She wanted Cory to grow up having the confidence to be himself and be happy. He needed to learn this from his father.

One day Arianne travelled to the lake where Aydin and Cory had swum the day the son of the Sun came. She sat by the waters edge looking out over the water.
‘I don’t know why I am here. Aydin knows how to do this and I don’t, but if you can hear me; I need your help.’ She then told the lake about her concerns about Aydin. A few days later when Arianne was busy cooking and Aydin was ploughing the land, Cory came bursting in, shouting for her. ‘Quick, quick a woman is with papa and she’s beautiful!’
And he ran back to the field towards Aydin. Arianne ran out after him. The woman had a bright glow about her and especially around her head where a golden light illuminated. When she reached them, the woman smiled at her and Arianne felt herself smile back and felt quite overwhelmed in this woman’s presence. She was indeed beautiful but with an ethereal presence that made you want to just be in her company. When she looked at Aydin he looked a little sad though.
‘What’s happening? Is everything ok?’
‘Aydin has been given a choice. And it is up to him now. But it is an opportunity. I will come and collect you at sunrise tomorrow, if you should decide to come.’  She turned and smiled back at Arianne. ‘Have faith,’ and she knelt down and kissed Cory’s head and turned and walked away. As she did, she faded into a mist.

Over the evening, Arianne and Aydin talked it over. He explained that the woman said he would be gone for three weeks. Arianne said she wanted him to go as it would be good for him. He was reluctant but she insisted that if he wanted to go then she would be fine. So the next day bright and early, Aydin kissed his family good-bye and set out on his way with the woman. They travelled over valleys and woodlands on two horses she had brought with her. They were strange beasts as they seemed to know their way and need very little instruction from Aydin.

Aydin travels past the villages he had come to know and even past the town where he would sell his goods. After another day of travelling, they came to a hill with a tomb of stones on it. The woman explained, ‘this was the temple tomb of rebirth and Judgement. But the judgement is your own. Here you will meet your higher self and find your true path. It is time to go in and meet your destiny Aydin.’ He turned round, ‘Are you not coming in?’
‘No. This is your journey, not mine.’ And once again she disappeared.

Aydin walked up to the entrance, the great Bear constellation in the sky above looking down on him.  Two stone pillars marked the entrance with a ring of stones encircling the tomb itself. Aydin walked up the steps and looked in. It was almost completely black. A few torches lit the path but otherwise he couldn’t see much. He stepped in and as he walked down into the earth a loud grating sound reverberated around the cavern. He turned and saw a huge stone rolled over the entrance. The world became darker.

Aydin found his food supply was scarce in here, with someone leaving him rations every few days. He started to feel weaker and spent his time in deep meditation. His senses were deprived from sounds, smells or sights. After the first week, Aydin met a person in his meditation journeys. This person looked similar to him but 10 years older. 
‘I am you Aydin but many years from now. I am here to show you what can be. Take my hand.’ Aydin did and found himself staring at his father. Not in the past but now. Aydin told him of all his adventures and reconciled the differences that Aydin still carried on his shoulders. Listening to things from his father’s point of view, Aydin found he could find forgiveness for him. Then Aydin was transported to meet himself when he first set out on his journey, all those years ago as a fool. Aydin spoke to him about his life and why he was doing this. Aydin realised he had forgotten so much about his own thoughts and feeling back then; his crazy expectations of what was in store and what he could become; he had wanted fame and acceptance. Aydin found unconditional love for the boy he had been.

Then he came face to face with himself. ‘Now come here Aydin.’ And his future self took his hands and pulled him into him. Aydin stepped into his future body and instantly saw the way his life was at this time. He saw Arianne and their children. He saw their home and how everyone seemed happy and healthy. But now people came to see them for cures, advice, healing and divination. Aydin still had his land but didn’t have to work as hard as before because money came in, in different ways. Kings and Queens sought his advice and he would leave his family for a time while he helped kingdoms reconcile and find a happy compromise. He was using all the skills he had been given on his journey. His relationship with his guides was stronger than ever before. He was whole and complete. He felt pride but also deep gratitude for his life’s blessings. Aydin realised that every area in his life felt complete at this stage. Aydin felt the strength and confidence flowing through him and it felt so good. Then he heard his future self say ‘This can be your future Aydin if you accept yourself and not judge yourself too harshly. Have compassion and acceptance during your highs and lows. You are free to be yourself and not put constraints on yourself by putting ‘should’ and ‘must’ in the way. You can be a good father, husband, man and healer if you give yourself permission to be. Only you can stand in the way. Now it is time to start your life again. What are you going to do?’ Aydin was facing his future self again.
‘I am going to be the man I know I can be and want to be.’

A light flashed and Aydin woke in his chamber. He was naked and sweating. Through his weakness, his body trembled but at the same time Aydin had never felt so much joy because he knew he had the freedom to pursue his calling in life. A meal was provided which was washed down with water. Then a maid came and guided Aydin to the entrance from where he had arrived three weeks ago. The grinding of the stone was an assault on his ears. Then the light flooded in and Aydin closed his eyes tight and saw the red of his eyelids and gave his eyes a while to adjust before he slowly opened them. He heard a blow of a horn, announcing his emergence from the womb-like tomb he had been encased in for so long. He walked carefully forwards and felt the sun on his bare flesh. He was blinded again by the sun and for a while couldn’t see anything. He heard birds singing and the sound of the wind on the leaves of the trees.

‘Father!’ Aydin saw his son and Arianne waiting for him. As he looked at them, he felt as if his world had stopped. He had everything he wanted. He walked down the steps and into the arms of his awaiting family, ready to embark on his new life. He had been born anew and he would not forget his lessons, for he had promised himself.

Over the year, Aydin let his lessons settle within himself. He shared his experience with Arianne and his wish to open a school of learning for other lost souls like himself; to help guide them on their own personal spiritual journey of self-discovery. He developed his relationship with his guides and sought their advice on this endeavour. Wren, Grey, Owl and Eagle came forward offering their support. As did his future self and his inner goddess, who he discovered was his guide to the tomb. He referred to her as Anna. He had learnt to balance the forces within himself.

Aydin created a ritual to celebrate the end of his journey, and the start of his new one, as he embarked on this new calling. He found a huge ash tree around which he placed large white stones in the shape of a labyrinth; creating a journey for a soul to walk. Lanterns were lit and hung in the boughs and his friends and students to be were invited. The magician, Gart and the High Priestess, The Lord and Lady were invited as well as the Druid, John. His friends Fionn and his mother Brionny came. As well as Cern who surprised them with a visit.  On the eve of the summer solstice, his party began; a night of ritual and merriment; of dancing and singing but most of all dancing. He felt on top of the World. It was a celebration of gratitude to be alive; to have completed the journey; for the chance to start another journey and to celebrate the feeling of complete wholeness. A celebration of knowing and understanding oneself; to have gained enlightenment and have the opportunity to share it with the world; to know this learning doesn’t stop there but will continue to grow. Aydin realised he was one with the world and no matter what twists and turns life brought his way, he would rejoice in its learning.