Meditation: Visiting the Silver Queen, Cerridwen
|Artwork by Thalia Took|
You awake in a cool thicket at twilight. You notice that beneath you is a thick clump of ivy, which you haven been using as a bed. The trees of the thicket are in autumn array. Their leaves are scarlet, golden, russet, and brown, but seem gray, violet, and black in the fading light of sunset.
You notice that the thicket borders a field of grapes to the west. In the western sky is a reddish violet glow. You hear the keen of a hawk cut clearly through the dusk.
You walk into the vineyard, plucking ripe grapes from the vines and eating them. Although the evening is cool, the grapes have held the warmth of day and their warm tart juice seems like blood in your mouth.
You hear a rough noise from within a stand of grapevine. Suddenly an enormous boar leaps in front of you. It snorts violently and bears its tusks. You turn in fear and try to escape the beast, but you are hedged in by twisted vines and tangling ivy.
The boar charges at you, flinging spittle and rolling its eyes wildly. Its tusk catches your ankle just above the heel. Your ankle throbs in pain at the gash. The boar flails its head around, tossing you into the air. You land astride the massive boar and in a panic grab its tusks with your fists. The boar bucks attempting to toss you from its back, but you are firmly planted.
The boar runs westward with you upon it still clinging to its tusks. The scent of the beast assaults your nose. The wound in your ankle is deep. Blood runs down the side of the boar as it rushes onward towards the setting sun. The jostling movement of the boar, the pain of your wound, and rapid blood loss make you feel disoriented.
On the horizon you see a dark lake. The boar continues its frenzied charge into the dark lake. You are now riding through the lake on the back of the swimming boar. The lake is warm and dark, like the warm dark blood that flows from your ankle. It reflects the violet-red of the setting sky above, making it appear to be made of blood. You realize then that this is no illusion of light. The lake itself is a lake of blood.
The boar stops at the shoreline and gives a loud snort. You climb off of the boar carefully, nursing your wounded ankle. The boar regards you for a moment and then rushes back into the lake of blood, leaving you behind on the dark island. You wonder aloud what place this is, and from the shoreline comes a low and melancholy reply, “This is a place with many names. Some call it the Grail Chapel. Others call it the Well of Souls. I call it the Castle Perilous. It is the home of Queen Cerridwen and her silver cup.”
You turn to see a darkly robed and hooded figure standing in a boat at the shoreline. The boatman's face is hidden in the shadows of his hood, but he stretches forth a pale bony finger to point at the great doors of the castle. The doors open slowly with a creaking noise, and the smell of myrrh and moss meets your nose. You enter the castle and the doors slam shut behind you.
Sounds of dripping cave water and distant wailing fill the air. You shudder to find that what you thought were rubies studding the walls are actually drops of blood, so that the walls appear to be bleeding. It is damp and cold here, and the sound of your shuffling feet echo through the dark halls. Your ankle throbs in pain from the boar's wound. You are filled with dull and nameless despair, yet you shuffle forward.
At the end of a long dark hall are two large silver doors covered in countless finely sculpted symbols. Among these you notice a sow and a cauldron. You move to touch the doors and they swing open at your gesture.
The room inside is bathed in soft silver moon light. In it you see an aged and beautiful woman with long gray hair. She is seated on throne of silver and she wears a dress of black. Her eyes are the color of the stormy sea and she offers you a knowing smile. To her right is a table with glowing silver cup upon it. The light of the room seems to be coming from this cup. To her left is a large iron cauldron adorned with a silver ivy and vine design. “I am called Cerridwen” she says. Her voice is a deep and rhythmic like the pounding of waves against the shore. You can taste salt in your mouth when she speaks. The scent of myrrh and cypress fills your nostrils. Your entire being is infused with rushing coolness and you feel slightly dizzy.
She nods at you and gestures to the silver cup to her right. “This is the treasure of Castle Perilous.” At her words the cup floats from the altar towards you. It rests against your lips and tips its vintage into your mouth. You drink deep of its contents. You can feel the wound in your ankle knitting closed, and all other pains and illnesses being cured and healed within you. Power seems to vibrate from the base of your spine up through the crown of your head. You tremble at the sensation of vitality and power that has infused your being.
Cerridwen fixes her gaze upon you and leans forward from her throne. Her eyes are like sacred wells. You feel that you may faint from the overwhelming flood of power in and around you. “I have a message for you,” she says. She takes the cup from your lips and whispers her secret message in your ear. [long pause]
Cerridwen bids you farewell and touches your forehead. You shiver at the cool dampness of her touch. The cauldron beside her begins to boil. You take your leave of the room hastily, disoriented by the power still coursing through you.
The hall is dank and still filled with distant wailing, but you understand now that it is not just the wailing of despair and sacrifice, but also of labor and infancy. On the black shore the boatman waits with an outstretched bony hand. You reach into your crane skin bag and retrieve a silver coin. On its face is the profile of Cerridwen. On its reverse is a boar leaping from a cauldron. You place the coin into the boatman's skeletal hand and climb into the boat.
The boatman pushes off and begins to row you back through the dark lake of blood. A hawk cries out as it circles over the barge. At the shore you can easily find the path that the boar created when it violently carried you off earlier. You trace the path back through the vineyard and into the autumn thicket where you began. There in the thicket is the patch of ivy you had made into your bed. You lay down on the ivy and rest.