Earlier in the evening we had had a Grove study meeting. We concluded by going through a series of guided meditations, recording them for the convenience of future meditators. After a pair of grounding-and-centering meditations, I took the last reading, a brief trance journey passing through the Mists to arrive nearer the Otherworld. As the guide, I wasn’t able to make the journey myself — I was too involved in pacing my delivery and keeping an even, guiding tone for the others — but it seemed to be a successful experience, judging by the faces of the others when the meditation concluded.
Upon returning home, I glanced at Facebook, and discovered that a friend’s brother had died. He asked for prayers, and I prepared to give my usual brief devotion for the dead: a lit candle, a short chant, and a prayer to Mannanán mac Lir that he guide the soul of the dead over the waves to the Isle of Apples, or wherever their religion’s tenets might bring them. This time, however, I paused; the text of the trance journey was still wavering in my head, and it seemed only appropriate to travel its paths to the mist-shrouded Lord of the Sea.
And so I closed my eyes. I saw in my mind’s eye the mists forming about my feet, rising to envelope my legs, my hips, my torso, finally my head, until all was grayness, hazy nothing streaking every which way. I called out, then: “Manannán! Son of the sea, I bring a gift and ask a boon!” For I did have a gift, though I hadn’t realized it till that moment: in my hands, I held a bar of bronze, shining and smooth, with the name of the dead man traced on it in delicately raised letters. A gift of art, forged in my mind.
The mists suddenly drew wide, parting like a curtain whisked away suddenly, the edges whipping. All around me lay a bare shoreline, rocks and sand and tufts of scrubgrass falling away from the ragged edge of breakers and an incoming tide the color of smoky glass. And at the shoreline stood a figure whose appearance made my breath catch in my throat.
When I imagine the Sea Lord, I see a man. A tall man, powerful and lordly, standing in the prow of a boat and directing it onward over the waves with superhuman might and dignity, but a human figure never the less. But on the shoreline before me was no man. He stood tall, robed, dignified. But where I usually picture a metal circlet, he wore a crown made of the foam of the sea, frothing and spitting. And where I usually picture a human face, I saw a mouth, a nose, eyes and cheekbones carved out of seawater, dark and gleaming like fractured obsidian, translucently glowing in greens and blues so deep as to swallow the light.
He reached out his hand, and suddenly I was before him, handing the bronze bar into outstretched seawater fingers. The Ruler of Waves stroked the bar gently, brushing his fingers over the inscribed letters. And then he began molding it, stretching and thinning the bronze into a graceful neck and powerful wings, drawing out feathers and beak from the gleaming metal.
Once the bright bronze swan was fully-fledged, he tossed it aloft, and the still metal shook to life, flexing and folding, bronze feathers sweeping the sky as the soul flew westward over the cold gray sea. Manannán’s hand followed the bird, palm out in a sort of farewell as it vanished over the horizon. Then he lowered his hand, turned toward me, and nodded once as the Mists rolled back across my view.
I returned to myself, prepared for bed, and slept. But though it’s been a week since my journey, I can’t stop seeing the face of the Seagod as I drift away to sleep. The scene fades in my memory, his face and crown blurring to wave and foam, but always dark and gleaming, always shining like a sculpture of water and godhead.
Wherever your soul may have alighted, JKH, rest peacefully. I do not doubt that Manannán has guided you well.
Header image: “Naples et la Côte Amalfitaine,” Flickr/Jagrina (CC BY-NC-ND)