The Winter Wild Wood Mystery
A Meditation for Alban Arthan
by Alex Langstone
All is in darkness.
Gradually you see stars shining, glowing intensely in the night sky. As you become aware of your surroundings you realise that you are standing in a meadow. A heavy frost shimmers upon the ground, illuminated by the faint starlight and a slender crescent moon.
You notice that you are standing by a wooden gate, and on the other side of the gate is an ancient trackway leading to a vast woodland. You open the gate and begin your journey on the path. Your footfalls crunch upon the frosted landscape and your breath vapourises on the still night air. In the distance movement catches your eye. Your heart quickens and you increase your step. Something stirs in the approaching woodland.
Before you enter the forest you notice that dawn is breaking towards the eastern horizon. The sky is clear and soon the sun will be reborn at this sacred time, and the light of Arthur will shine across the land once again. For this is a time of beginnings and completion, death and rebirth; the sun dies and is reborn as the Child of promise.
The Sun's journey is about to begin once more as it has since the dawn of time, for in the depths of winter's darkness stirs new life, and the Oak king stirs in readiness for the waxing sun.
You now enter the winter wild wood, and again you see movement up ahead. Then at once as the Solstice Sun rises over the distant hills you enter a clearing. A huge stag greets you, his antlers rise up and he looks at you. Look into his eyes, for he is the guardian of the forest and the sacred totem of Cernunnos, of Herne, of Gwyn ap Nudd - He who leads the legendary Wild Hunt at the winter solstice; hunting out the light from the darkness, seeking out our future dreams and aspirations from the hidden depths of our souls.
As you watch him, he turns away and walks deeper into the magic forest. You feel compelled to follow him, for now is the time to use the light of the returning sun to aid us in our continuing quest. Follow the Stag-headed-one, keeper of the mysteries of the winter wild wood.
As you walk onwards you notice that the trees are getting bigger. Mighty oaks are now in abundance, their twisted branches look like ancient hands reaching out to welcome and guide you, for you are about to enter the sacred grove of the Horned God. He awaits you, and should you require his assistance and guidance, then ask for it now. Call out to him and he will answer. Spend some time in communion with the protective power of nature.
Whatever is happening now, look around you, notice that you are still in the forest but the Horned God has gone and shafts of pale winter sunlight pierce through the bare branches of the trees. You now retrace your steps, walking away from the clearing and towards the forest edge. As you leave the clearing you notice the bright red berries of the holly, which add life and colour to the woodland. You follow the path and shortly you see the mighty oaks again and you note the most sacred of all winter plants growing high up in their branches: the Mistletoe, it's gleaming white berries shining and silken, symbolic of the seed of life!
Shortly the woodland changes and you enter a Birch grove. The slender silver graceful trees form a perfect circle. You walk around the edge of the circular clearing. A Wren greets you by flitting from tree to tree. The sylvan trunks glisten in the watery sunlight. A small bubbling brook winds its way along the outer edge of the clearing. You listen to the sound of the water running over the rounded pebbles, which glow like jewels in the morning light. Take a drink from the stream. Feel the cold water refresh and cleanse you in readiness for your continued journey home.
Soon you reach the edge of the wild wood and as you leave by the old wooden gate, a Robin darts across your path from the old Yew by the gate. His sweet song greets you, the sacred song of winter. Remember what you have learned and take inspiration from what you have experienced and as you look around you the landscape fades away.
All is in darkness.