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A Winters Tale title
Excerpt from Voices of the Stars by Rowena Whaling  (Permuted Press 2014)

The Bear

The very first memory of my life is of Morgan, not of my Mother or my foster brother Bedwyr, but of Morgan – kind, Enchanting, beautiful Morgan.  I was sitting on her lap in the children’s quarters looking up at her beautiful face as she, in her whimsical and wonderful way, was telling a story to us.  I remember that Bedwyr was sitting at her feet.  There was a chill in the Air along with the sweet and pungent smells of Cedar, Pine, Juniper, Apple, and Rosemary.  Ah, yes, it was the Night past the Longest Night, upon which we had celebrated the pinnacle of darkness and the return of the Sun God’s rule.  The Son of the Great Goddess...  Igraine had also reminded us that upon that very Night four years past, had Bedwyr and I been born.  The floor rushes of our chamber had been strewn with fragrant Herbs and greenery.  Long ropes of Cedar branches had been braided by Igraine and the household servants.  These she had hung from the doorposts and had
 had her attendants wind them around the crossbeams. 

Upon this Night of my first remembrances, in the chamber all the torches were lit and their flickering cast dancing shadows all about the Stone walls.  The three of us were wrapped in pelts for warmth.  Morgan shared her hot honeyed wine with us.

Her tale that Night was one told by the Old Tribes – the small Dark People of the Woods – of whom she, Bedwyr, Morganna, and their Mother, the Lady Igraine, were kin. 

I do precisely remember that this story was about a very ancient God named Nodens. 

She began:  “I would tell a tale to you...  a tale of great mystery... of fear... of Sacrifice...  and of joy. 

Now on these Fair Isles, Nodens is the God of Healing and Divination, of Brooks, Streams, Springs, and Caves.  He is a secret God... an old God – a God of dark and silent places.  The God of deep and still Waters." 
Then she lowered her voice, whilst we were rapt in attention and said, “Each God has a purpose and function.  And, each one represents principals of Cosmic Creation.  Do you understand?”

She looked into my eyes and probably read the incomprehension.  Her eyes twinkled.  She smiled and tousled our hair.

Well no matter...

Hers were big and long words to us and filled with the promise of so many things yet to learn. 

She continued:  “Sometimes he is the Son, betimes the Brother or the Consort of the Goddess.  But all is aright with this,” quoth she, “for such things as blood ties are different in the realms of the Gods.  And as everyone knows, the Great Goddess is Mother of all.” 

I remember being completely amazed when next she said, “Nodens disappears – or dies, some say – at the end of every year-turn.  Then He retreats into his Cave of Madness and into the depths of his darksome Wells.  All the while, the Sun is retreating and the Leaves of Red and Gold are falling from the Trees.  When Earth has turned to brown and gray, all the green around us descends with Him into Her Cauldron of Chaos, there to return to the Mother’s womb – awaiting Her call at Winter’s End.”

I frowned... 

“Oh, but not to worry, Bear, for He will spring forth again, all in the proper time.  The great wheel must turn to continue Earth’s cycles.”

Then Morgan sang a song of ancient words and haunting melody... still today, it pierces my heart.

                        “For Everything She changes, changes, changes...
                              Will change and change and change again...
                                     And all will return... return... return...”

Of course, this does not rhyme in my written language.  But when she sang these words in the tongue of the Old Tribes they were melodious as the song of Birds.

Morgan continued to Weave her tale of mystery.  We, Spellbound, hung upon her every word.

“Now, Nodens knows that, as we watch Earth’s bounty wither whilst He has retired for the cold and dark Time – we will worry and fear that the end of all life is at hand and that the light will not return.  Also, that the Grains, Apples, and wild Berries would not grow and the Beasts of the Fields and Forests hunger and die.  Even would the Bees, without Flowers, perish and no more should we have honey or mead to nourish us and warm our hearts.  Then, alas, would we all die without sustenance.  For indeed, do not even his Brooks and Streams freeze over whilst Nodens sleeps? 

“Oh, dreadful hour...

“So, in His boundless Wisdom and Love – recognizing our grief, long and long ago He Spelled the Evergreens to always remain green – as a beacon and a promise, that nothing is lost forever.  All things in Green Nature rest, but for the Evergreens, which seem never to sleep at all. 
“And this is why it has been our custom to ‘Bring in the Greens’ and to hang the halls and hovels with Evergreen and Holly, as Mid-Winter’s Eve draws nigh – whilst we all await the returning of the Light.  

“All of these things happen to remind us that although She changes Her cloak and Her faces, the Goddess never dies.  For, in just the blink of an eye beyond the depths of the Longest Night, a newborn God arises to become the Sun Mother’s son.  The Sun God waxes!  The light returns!  Hail to the Sun God!

“But what of old Nodens?   Does He return with the newborn light? 

“Well, no – not quite yet.  A Day comes at about the Time of the new milking of the Ewes when the small creeping furry ones come out from their dens and logs and just about at that same time do we, too, have a feeling of a quickening within.

“Nodens yawns and stretches.  He breaks free from the dark icy deep, to emerge refreshed; a young God.

“It is at the Time of The Stirring when we celebrate our Festival of the Returning Light.   And here does end the tale of Nodens.”         
“Oh Morgan, tell us more!”

So Morgan continued, for even with children small as we, she could not but help to teach the meanings of the Sacred Festival cycle of Igraine’s blood kin.

I cannot say that I remember the rest of the words she uttered, or that I did not fall to sleep in her arms, however, Bedwyr and I must both have been snoring.

“Can you guess what happened next?”

At this change of her intonation I awoke or recovered from my reverie.

Morgan laughed again.  I remember thinking that her laugh sounded as beautiful to me as the bells on Lady Igraine’s ankles. 

“To go on with my story...

“Nodens is the God of Healing Wells such as the one my Lady Mother, the great Seer Igraine, watches over in our fortress’ courtyard.”

“Oh...” said we.

“So, if ever you should become very sad or ill of heart, my dear ones, seek out a Well of Nodens, for there you shall find comfort and solace.  Should you come upon a Sacred Well by chance, you must pay homage to Him and offer a sincere offering.  Also ask of Him the desire of your heart.  For those who approach Him with pureness of heart and honest intention will be blessed three Times three!” 

But what I hold in my heart from that Night was looking up into Morgan’s beautiful face.  I thought that the Goddess must look very much like her.

In years to come, many have said that both Bedwyr and I listen long and hold our council in patience.  I do believe that this we learned from our long listenings to Morgan’s stories.
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Last updated January 2015