Returning to the Old North
Or how I learned the stories of these lands had been hiding in plain sight all along.
The more I’ve journeyed to reclaim my responsibility as a keeper of these lands I call home, the more frustrated I’ve found myself becoming at the lack of information and mythology that was focused here in the North.
Wales, further north in Scotland, or further South in… well, just about anywhere? Stacks of information easily available. But here in the North East? It was almost as though the stories had only begun back when Hadrian’s Wall was built.
Then last week I realised that perhaps those stories have been hiding in plain sight all along, in my favourite set of myths ever, those of Wales.
You might well be wondering why I call Welsh mythology my favourites, let me explain.
Back in my 20s an ex bought me an illustrated version of the Mabinogion – the stories that comprise Welsh mythology – in an attempt to teach me the stories of the land he’d been born in, and I was immediately hooked.
Story after story in the book seemed so familiar to me, particularly where the women of the Mabinogion were concerned. In fact I was so enamoured with them that my first ever deck of tarot cards were based upon the stores of the Mabinogion.
Athough the personal relationship didn’t last, my love affair with Welsh mythology definitely did, and the more I claimed the label of “witch” for myself, the more I found myself working closer and closer with those goddesses found in the Mabinogion, and sharing their stories with others along the way.
That, together with my name (the spelling of which, for the record, was made up in my case, although I’m told Ceryn is an established Welsh name) led a lot of people online to assume I was Welsh, or at least had my roots in that beautiful country, only to be very confused when a stream of Geordie left my lips and I declared that there was very little Welsh in my lineage.
Or so I thought…
Returning to Yr Hen Ogledd
I must have searched for information on the ancient kingdoms that comprised Britain a hundred or more times, and read everything I could about Bernicia – the area that stretched from Lothian to Teeside along the East side of the land – along the way. Yet, as always tends to happen with information that doesn’t make itself known until the reader is ready, one piece of information apparently eluded me until earlier this month when I read a particular phrase on Wikipedia.
“Yr Hen Ogledd”
The Old North in Ancient Wales; also known as the kingdom of Bernicia which, thanks to a strong bond with the kingdoms of Wales, had more in common –linguistically and mythologically – with that land than any of the others around it.
The more I read and the further my research rabbit hole took me, the harder I found myself crying in a surefire sign of resonance.
I learned that the kingdom of Bernicia had its capital at Bamburgh, at various times said to be the home of King Uriens and Coel Hen; the husband of Arthurian sorceress Morgan La Fae and father of sovereignty Goddess Elen of the Ways respectively. And since both of those women have called to me loudly and continually throughout my work with spirit so far, everything began to fall into place.
And so I’ve pulled out my old copy of the Mabinogion – not to mention the many other books I’ve accumulated on Welsh mythology since – and begun to look more deeply for mentions of Yr Hen Ogledd; or indeed anywhere said to be “in the far North” as I join the dots between all that these lands and my own soul are telling me, and what may well have been written by others throughout history.
Along the way I’ve also downloaded Duolingo and started brushing up on my Welsh. Because if these lands are used to speaking to their guardians in that way then it seems like something I need to familiarise myself with further.
Over the past few weeks I’ve also paid visits to a few of our sacred sites here in the North, so watch this space for more on my findings there which I’ll be sharing just as soon as I integrate them all!