A Faery Tale for Imbolc

Luna Hare was cold. His cream-coloured fur glistened with frost under the crystal white Snow Moon, and his long, silky ears pricked as he heard echoing to him, across the pitch black night, the chilling howl of Wolf. He was stone cold petrified.

solstice hare by doreen foster
Solstice Hare by Doreen Foster

His journey had been long and hard… and he still had so far to go.

HareMoon(338x360)

But little did the Luna Hare know that on Glastonbury Tor, a trembling vibration could already be felt …. the unmistakeable sound of Imbolc, as Bride the Swan’s beautiful great white wings started to open, to prepare for flight.

Suddenly, in a flash of electric white, she was in the air, soaring over the stark coppiced fences of Cinnamon Lane that bounded the gardens which ran down to the river Brue, and then across the blessed jewelled heart of England still glistening with winter’s icy flood water under the stars.

cygnus

“Come to me, little Hare,” her beckoning voice was like the whispering of angels, the rustling of silken crepe-de-chine embroidered with a thousand stars, “ Come to me. Come on….I will take you… “ and Luna Hare looked up to see this aerial manifestation of infinite Mercy bearing down on him. He quickly hopped on and nestled himself into the soft fluffy down of her huge wings.

They flew through that night together, and the night was long … with hounds baying for his blood below, he could hear the dragons screaming flame-throwers to see them off. They sky-voyaged many days and nights like this together…even through the whole cycle of the Crow Moon… and flew over the Faery Fish, a whale who trumpeted his greeting by spouting the Waters of Avalon in a silver fountain from his head.

cetus

And on and on they went, Luna Hare dreaming well-deep, in the snug, toasty warmth, about clouds of bluebells the colour of lapis lazuli, bobbing and nodding daffodils all gossiping merrily among themselves and golden buttercup meadows kissing the sun.

At last, the night of the full Egg Moon came around and Luna Hare peeked out from under the folds of his eider down to see the old and rugged faced harbour master, Macmannam mac Lir, blowing on his conch shell horn and then waving them down. The spume and spray from the enormous waves that his pilot boat created soon merged into the white feathers of the Faery Swan’s slowing and braking wings.

mannananmaclir

“Here are the Havens,” he cried, “This way. This way. Here you’ll be safe for a while… until it’s time again to be on your way.”

And so it was. Blessed Be.

The geomythology of this story

This faery story is a star metaphor; it represents the first quarter of that great, ancient circular earthwork on the Somerset Levels, the Glastonbury Zodiac or Glastonbury Temple of the Stars. In creating this story out of turf and soil to represent what they saw in the night skies above, our Celtic ancestors were conversing with the spirits of the Land. In that way, this great drama is an offering between Man and Fae that traverses the liminal veils. In re-telling that story again here, we’re continuing in that tradition.

Today, I stood in Cinnamon Lane by the river Brue and looked up at the Tor, which had dark blue storm clouds gathering over it. After a while, Bridie whispered to me “Go back, and tell them the story.” I instantly turned and as I did, I looked up to see three white swans of the triple-faced goddess flying overhead, their wings glinting in the bright afternoon sun. They swooped over the lower flanks of the Tor and then carried on, oblivious of me or anyone, into the infinite blue.

This Imbolc faery story is etched out by the diamond-bright stars in the night sky which fall on this landscape, telling of the journey of the Radiant Child, who is also known as the Hare, from winter to spring.

lepus2

Imbolc falls on February 2nd and is the first cross quarter festival of the year. It signals Mercy, the flight of the young Bride in her Faery Swan form, to rescue the Faery Child or Hare. Her body is outlined by the contours around the Tor, with her long neck formed by Wearyall Hill.

swan

The Radiant Child is the constellation of Lepus the Hare, who is born in the Faery Boat at the Winter Solstice with the help of the midwives of the Sisterhood of the Deer, who represent the the Pleiades, at Collards Hill. The Faery Swan of the Tor is Cygnus and the Faery Fish or Whale is Cetus, shown on the sea moor to the south of Wearyall Hill.

The Havens or Faery Harbour, around Street and Walton Hill, is largely made up of the stars of the constellation of Aries. It’s only since classical times that Aries has been associated with a Ram.

The Egg Moon is the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which is why Easter is held on the first Sunday after that. At that time, near Burrow Mump at a place on the river known as Moon Drove, there is an ancient custom going back to at least the time of King Alfred the Great, of “feeding the Dog”. Locals gather to throw hot cross buns into where the River Tone joins the River Parrett. This junction of the two rivers is said to be the tongue in the mouth of the effigy known as the Questing Beast, or the Girt Dog of Langport.

The Knight of the Swan

Later on the character of Lohengrin was developed out of stories in the German Arthurian literature that were based on this more ancient Celtic tale told in the land of Avalon. Wagner wrote an opera about the quest of this mythological hero, the Knight of the Swan, whose boat was led by swans.

Lohengrin by Walter Crane
If you would like to learn more about the faery lore of Avalon, I’ve laid it all out in my book Stories in the Summerlands, which you can get here on Amazon.