Inspiring stories

St Edmund: England’s first patron saint

Wolf howling at the moon

This is the last official post by the Spirit of East Anglia as we have taken the decision to disband the community due to commitments elsewhere. We will continue to post new content on an ad hoc basis as we feel moved to do so though, so do not despair…..

By Cath Everett, content editor for the Spirit of East Anglia community.

While George of dragon-slaying fame may happen to be the patron saint of England today, it certainly has not always been the case. In fact, up until the Middle Ages, a local East Anglian lad in the shape of St Edmund, otherwise known as Edmund the Martyr, actually got there first.

Although little is really known about Edmund due to the sacking of East Anglia by the Vikings, which meant that no contemporary documents survived, he is thought to have been born on Christmas Day in 841 and acceded to the East Anglian throne in about 856.

A Christian from birth, he fought alongside King Alfred the Great against the so-called ‘Great Heathen Army’ of Viking invaders until 869/70 when his forces were defeated. But, so the legend goes, on being captured by the Danes, Edmund refused their demands to share power or renounce his faith.

As a result, they bound him to a tree, shot him through with arrows and chopped off his head. His severed poll was thrown into a nearby forest but as a group of his followers went looking for it, calling “Where are, friend?” as they went, the answer came “Here, here, here.”

When at last it was discovered, Edmund’s noggin was clasped firmly between a talking wolf’s protective paws. As the band took their gruesome find and started walking home with it, the wolf accompanied them for a distance before disappearing back into the trees.

Although it is unclear where this martyrdom took place, a potential site is believed to be Hoxne in Suffolk. Dernford in Cambridgeshire is another possibility as is Maldon in Essex and Bradfield St Clare near Bury St Edmunds.

What is certain though is that in 902, Edmund’s remains were moved to Bredricsworth (Bury St Edmunds) where King Athelstan founded a religious community to take care of his shrine, which over time became a place of national pilgrimage.

King Canute, who is famed for allegedly trying to hold back the tides, built a stone abbey to house this shrine in 1020 and it soon became one of the most famous and wealthy pilgrimage sites in England, being patronised by kings.

Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

Waxing and waning

Edmund’s cult flourished. He was considered the embodiment of divinely-ordained rule, rightful sovereignty and of the binding ties between kingship, the land and society.

Such was his influence, in fact, that on St Edmund’s Day on 20 November 1214, rebel English barons held a secret meeting there before going to confront King John with the Charter of Liberties, a precursor to the Magna Carta, which was signed a year later. The event is even memorialised in the Bury’s town motto: ‘Shrine of a King, Cradle of the Law’.

But Edmund’s standing began to fall when, during the Third Crusade in 1199, King Richard I visited St George’s tomb in Lydda, now Lod in Israel, on the eve of the battle. The next day, he won a major victory and so adopted St George as a good luck charm, personal patron and protector of his army.

Although St Edmund’s White Dragon banner was still carried into battle by the English army, by the time of Edward I’s reign, which began in the 1270s, his standard had been joined by St George’s. To make matters worse, in 1348, Edward III founded a new order of chivalry called the Knights of the Garter and made St George its main man, declaring him Patron Saint of England at the same time.

Adding insult to injury, Edmund’s shrine was then unceremoniously destroyed in 1539 during Henry VIII’s Reformation. His remains were taken off for safekeeping to France where they remained until 1911, before being moved to the chapel in Arundel Castle in West Sussex where they still remain to this day.

But despite being knocked off his perch, Edmund still has a goodly number of causes to represent. He is patron saint of wolves, kings and East Anglia. He is also patron saint of pandemics and torture victims – and, should you pray to him, he will allegedly offer you protection from the plague, a gift perhaps a little less useful today than it was a few centuries back but nonetheless important.

Moreover, it seems that Edmund has not been entirely forgotten. In 2006, a local group that included BBC Radio Suffolk, the Bury St Edmunds-based brewery Green King and the East Anglian Daily Times newspaper launched a campaign to reinstate him to his former glory.

A second attempt in 2013 took the line that England should have a “unique” patron saint rather than one shared by 17 other countries, and a bank holiday was proposed in his honour. And while it may all have been to no avail, at least Edmund got to take up his new position as patron saint of Suffolk County Council out of it. Which is something.

Cath Everett

Cath Everett is content editor for the Spirit of East Anglia community.


Kinesiology: A personal journey

Picking up clues on the journey to self-discovery

Counselling: Embarking on a journey of self-discovery

Inspiring stories, Uncategorized

A ‘Divine 9’ message: 2019 – A pivotal year of completion and rebirth


By guest contributor Gina Schofield, channel and cosmic coach

Since 2009 when I started channelling, a range of wonderful guides have both communicated through me, and with me. All of them come from evolved star groupings from other parts of our cosmos, such as AndromedaSirius and the Pleiades. Most recently, on the morning of 31 December 2018, a group called ‘The Divine 9’ from the Pleiades brought through an uplifting message about the energy of 2019, including tips on how to move through the year with more ease and grace.

The Divine 9 describe their mission as being one of supporting humanity in strengthening the connection with our divine aspects, which they tend to call our ‘Illumined Self’ (higher self). Their name, the Divine 9, refers then to this Divine aspect of us, and also to the energy of the 9 contained within the 2019 year, where the focus is on working towards completion and rebirth.

When reading their message though, please bear in mind that it was spoken by them through me, and I then typed it up from my voice recorder. So it is a snapshot of the way they speak, which is sometimes very fast. They also often repeat things in slightly different ways to get their message across more clearly.

So my suggestion is to let go of needing it to read like a perfectly-written human piece because the way they use language is different from us. Instead try to open up and allow yourself, as you read it, to feel the energy of their transmission within the message. So here it is:

“We are the Divine 9 and we bring through the divinity frequencies – divinity as in your illumined aspects, and we come from the Pleiadian frequencies. The 9 is an energy of working towards completion and rebirth.

“2019 contains the 9, and this is a really pivotal year. You will be working towards all that you have been doing, your inner work of this past few years. And so this is an embodiment year, a year of true action and really making it happen. Walking the talk, embodying the learnings and knowings that you have been working through so well and integrating.

“Now it is taking all of that and putting it into action. This will be showing up in new relationships that will be forming, so that people will be embarking on new love partnerships, new business partnerships, and you will also see new business ideas and new institutional shifts. Lots of positivity is coming onto the horizon. We are here to gather and share with you everything to do with the 9 energy.


2019 as a gateway year

“The gateway portal point of 2019 begins to prepare us for the 2020 timeline of the next decade, that is very filled with light and new developments for humankind. We are a collective that come from the Divine 9 constellation of the Pleiades star system that brings forth a frequency of divine expression in human form.

“And so what we mean is, the blended human that has their higher-self frequencies more integrated than ever before – this is what is coming for many who are in a space of readiness for this. More and more threads and light frequencies are coming through in the day-to-day, so that you are ‘feeling more yourselves’ – this is what a human would call it – you will be ‘feeling more yourselves’ than ever before.

“And what does this mean? It means being online more fully. Being more plugged in more of the time is the goal because it feels good, it feels natural, and you feel home. So you are embodying home here on Earth as you move through your world, and you interact and engage, and you are more and more embodied in your fullest, illumined self.

“So this is exciting! Imagine a planet with more and more humans embodying this and living, speaking, interacting and choosing from that energy space. This is a world that is healing itself.

“And of course you may ask why does the world look the way it does? Well, we see that there has been so much destruction both on a psychological level, within people’s psyches due to fragmentation and separation. Due to war, conflict, repression, and all kinds of subtle things that affect many people, like working long hours and being in isolation quite often in their separate abodes, and not having that feeling of support and tribe and love that once was the norm in more ancient times for many.

“So this community is beginning to return, in a new digital way, and will look different for each person. People are finding their own creative ways to create a tribe, whether this be through an online community or whether it be through groups that they physically go to that they are finding online.

“So it’s interesting, isn’t it, if you track the trajectory of humanity, how fascinating it is through all the many civilisations (as you call them) throughout time, how things have been built up and burnt down, and built up and burnt down?

“And now, in this world, there is actually so much positivity and so much light lighting up, and so much healing occurring on the subtle planes. And in more tangible, obvious ways, there are also people speaking out, people standing up for things that they believe in, and the vulnerable are being supported in ways that they were not before.


2019 as a year of reconnection

“So much is stepping up if you really think about the improvements broadly and deeply from how things were 50 years ago, and how things are now. This would be an interesting exercise would it not, to explore, to really get how things really are improving?

“So do not feel that the world is on a trajectory of self-destruction. And yes, Gaia is living and breathing still, miraculously, despite the lack of love and respect that has been shown to her, and a lack of realisation that she is a live being who has feelings.

“Still many who are asleep do not realise or even comprehend this, that Gaia is a living breathing being. They may look at trees and grass. They know are growing, but they never have a thought that there is feeling there. So there is this disconnect, yes.

“But, at the same time, there are so many who are returning to and rediscovering an honouring of the herbal ways, of foraging, of ways of making things homemade again. The ways of making and creating, and remembering how to do things oneself rather than just buying it all from the shop.

“So there is an ongoing process of reconnection, a reconnection within one’s own psyche, a reconnection with each other as humans. And people are being heartfelt and considerate and also moving about the world with more gracefulness and consideration and thought for the livingness of this Earth. So there is so much to celebrate.

“So this year 2019, let us see what is going to be the flavour of this year. This has much to do with how you can bring your fullest embodiment out into the world, so this is more a year for being out than being in.

“Being in has been the theme for the past few years as people have really gone within and self-sought within themselves. And you may have been going through layers and layers and layers of ancestral and akashic records, to clear, to cleanse, to purify, to face, to bring up, to unearth. And so much courage and resilience has been built as a result of this, yes.


2019 as a year of embodiment

“So much resilience is becoming the norm, and do you see now, with this courage and resilience as you step out into the world with your new embodiment of the things you are deeply knowing, the things you have seen and felt and had nudges about to shift and change even in a subtle way.

“As you embody them and move them out into the world, and you start to share them as you feel guided and appropriate, this is what you are going to be feeling and seeing: Changes in yourself that feel good, that feel more aligned. Changes that you feel and see in others. Changes that you will begin to see and feel in institutions and collective groupings.

“So you see this year, 2019, is more of an outward embodiment, an action year of making things happen. And this could be for you personally to do with changing habits, such as committing to breathing in awareness for five minutes a day.

“Really the key is to listen to your personal prompting, your personal need. Moving also out of the mentality that has been common in many aspects of society – the feeling of having to fit in for fear of disapproval or ostracisation.

“What you will be finding is that as you follow your true promptings rather than society’s messages (that maybe don’t sit properly or fully with you as an individual). And you will find that you will be seeing this in others also. And you will feel that your values are being more accepted by others around you, and this will be a nice surprise, as they also are learning to step into their personal, new frequencies.

“So this is a theme that is coming: more acceptance of the self in its uniqueness, and more acceptance of others, and a celebration of them embodying their uniqueness. And you will find this is more common. And we would encourage you to really allow yourself to encourage in others, where you feel they are calling for support in making changes or looking for any support or encouragement, if it is something that they are personally prompted to do, then that is right for them.

“Rather than the thinking mind, it is more what their heart is telling them, or what their gut is communicating to them, or telling them deeply in the body-self that is true and right.

No conflict – that is the thing now. We are moving away from conflict and we are moving into Harmony and Unity, and that is the journey we are on as a humanity, from conflict to unity – both outwardly in your culture, between nations, and also inwardly. A mending and a blending of the psyche, of each person’s psyche, as they bring home the parts of them that may have been exiled, bringing them home to be together and aligned and connected.


2019 as an outward-looking year

“So this is an exciting time. This is a gateway year, where we move from the inward to the outward phase of action, of really starting to embody all we have been learning.

“It should not be too hard in many ways. The key thing is to listen, to really take time to listen, to feel your knowing and feel your truth within you personally. And if you need to take time locked in the bathroom, for example, to be on your own, to feel your personal knowing away from the pressures and voices of others, if you can, this is the most key, important thing: to keep coming back to your personal knowing of what is right for you. Do not feel this is selfish, for it is not.

As you are more your true aligned self, you are more and more a representation of the Love frequency walking the planet. And you are actually being far less selfish as you embody your fullness, as you embody the full love that you can give to yourself, and then allow that to flow through you in your expression as you move through the world – you are being of far greater service in many ways.

“So really this is the key, to make time to listen within, even if it is five minutes a day, two minutes a day, perhaps in the morning, and again at night. Take time to go within and listen and, as you practice this, you will find it becomes quicker and stronger and easier. And it is an investment, and you will find that your illumined self, your expanded most evolved expression of yourself is going to be more and more online as you listen.

“The more you listen, the more you know what to do and the more you know who you are. The more you know who you are, the more peace you feel, the more loving you feel, the more love you can give, the more you can share, the more you can receive. It’s a win-win.

“It is such a small investment of time and attention, absolutely tiny really in terms of the time you have in your 24-hour day. So that is the key – we cannot stress this enough – to listen, two minutes in the morning, two minutes at night. And accompany this with a slower deeper breathing, for this calms the mind and allows your fuller self to come through.

“So 2019 is a year of moving into a fuller embodiment of who you truly are.”

Gina Shofield

Gina Schofield is a channel and cosmic coach based in Bristol. She has channelled guides from evolved star groupings from other parts of our cosmos, such as Andromeda, Sirius and the Pleiades, since 2009. Gina offers personal and group sessions, in which the guides coach and offer multidimensional healing.


A healthy heart: What’s love got to do with it?

Kundalini yoga: Taking on the challenge of transformational change

Learning how to grieve, heal and grow



Healing approaches, Inspiring stories

Kinesiology: A personal journey

Life's journey
Life’s journey

By Anita Ramsden, kinesiologist.

Someone asked me the other day how I first got into kinesiology and that made me think of how my journey into the profession started a long time ago.

In fact, I was a student in London doing a BA honours degree in Jewellery at the time. Our technician had asked for some willing guinea pigs for his wife, who was studying to become a kinesiologist. Everyone looked at him with blank faces – and even now, I still occasionally get ‘a kinesi-what?’

But it did not take too much persuasion to get involved, mainly due to the fact that she was happy to feed any willing bodies, albeit macrobiotic food, which as it happens was delicious. So a pioneering group of us set off to discover what this brave new world was all about.

We lay down on the couch and ‘resisted her pressure’ as she tested the muscles of our arms and legs in various positions. She carried out corrections using massage points, homeopathic drops, colour, sound and so on. It was fascinating and magical. The whole experience was lots of fun and a huge eye opener to things I had never previously known existed.

But it was a year or so later that my journey down this path really began as I developed psoriasis, mainly on my scalp, while undertaking my finals. I saw a doctor many times during this time and tried all manner of shampoos, steroid creams and tablets, but to no avail.

Eventually I gave a kinesiologist a go and, after my first session, he advised me that my body was struggling to absorb dairy products and that I should stop eating anything containing milk. This statement caused me to experience a whole range of emotions, the biggest of which was fear.

No more cappuccinos – was he crazy? OMG, what about cake? Cheese I did not mind so much as I had always considered it a pointless food that I neither liked nor understood – and as for milk, yuk.

But this was back in the early 1990’s and dairy-free foods were not as readily available then, although they could be found in health food shops. You certainly would not come across them in what a friend calls “the fusspot section” of the supermarket as we do now.

Leap of faith
Leap of faith

Leap of faith

So I took a leap of faith, irritating anyone who offered to cook for me in the process, by swapping out cows milk-based products for the only real alternative at the time, soya milk. And I was disappointed to report there was no real change.

But when I returned to the kinesiologist, we discovered that my body had just as much of an aversion to soy as it did to dairy. No soya. Holy Moly – what would I eat now?

So I duly cut out all the soya products, which was not much of a sacrifice as I did not care much for them anyway. And then the magic happened: my psoriasis got better, disappearing never, ever, to return again.

I felt great. My digestive system was no longer a grumpy, irritated beast that made me prone to bloating, cramping and feeling gaseous, with all of the unfortunate consequences that entails.

I also no longer suffered from regular, painful coldsores, brought on by late nights, too much work and any kind of fun or stress. One of them even went rogue at one point and turned into impetigo. But I have to report that over the last 20 years or so, I have only had three or four at most.

While all of this may not sound life-changing, it was to me. I realised that my system was not depleted as a result of taking drugs or medicines. It was simply about putting something into my body that it struggled to digest. After years of doing its best, the added stress of my finals was just more than it could take.

When I look back, my body was always trying to tell me that I was failing to make lactase, the enzyme required to break down lactose in milk. Or alternatively, perhaps I did not have enough of it, or something was blocking it.

But as a baby, once my mum tried to put me on formula milk, I became covered in eczema. We struggled on though, eventually settling on a goat’s milk formula that was not rejected immediately by my delicate system.

Life force
Life force

Times move on

Although we were given various creams to help, I also developed multiple ear infections and repeated tonsillitis. By the age of five, they took out my tonsils and adenoids, which was a horrid operation. Could the procedure have been avoided if milk had not impaired my immune system? Yes, I believe so.

But times have moved on since then and at least some GPs would now suggest reducing or removing dairy from your diet in the case of skin complaints.

Anyway, this history meant that the kinesiologist’s diagnosis really struck a chord with me. I needed to add nothing to my diet – just take something away. It was so simple and yet it enhanced everything – my energy, my overall health and, much to my boyfriend’s delight, also reduced my moodswings. My digestive system became calm and amenable.

After that, I started seeing a kinesiologist for all of my ailments. By the time I came to seriously consider if I could actually work this magic myself, I had been benefiting from it for a very long time. I took all three of my children to my kinesiologist and most of my friends went too – if only to shut me up.

The most dramatic situation though was when I broke my coccyx. It became dislodged and moved over to one side rather than being straight. I had also slipped a disc and was suffering from sciatica, which meant I found it difficult to walk or drive. After my scan, the consultant said the best thing would be to have the coccyx surgically removed.

But I decided to call my kinesiologist, who is also a craniosacral therapist. Using very gentle techniques, she was able to encourage my body to ease the coccyx back into alignment. I suffered no more pain or discomfort and had no more need for it to be chopped off.

What more can I say: I love this work and am very keen for others to have healthy, happy outcomes as a result of it too – which is why I became a kinesiologist in the first place.

I have now also qualified as a ‘Touch for Health’ kinesiology instructor. If you would like to see for yourself whether this approach works for you, Touch for Health is the first step, so please contact me directly for teaching dates. Alternatively, if you would like to find out more about kinesiology in general or locate a practitioner near you, the Kinesiology Federation is definitely the place to go.


Anita Ramsden is a kinesiologist. She is emphatic about affecting positive change and her work encourages wellbeing for mind, body and soul. Anita is also a member of the Kinesiology Federation.


Kinesiology: The science of human movement

Picking up clues on the journey to self-discovery

Homeopathy: Awakening the vital force















Inspiring stories

Picking up clues on the journey to self-discovery

silhouette of a man during sunset
Photo by Johannes Plenio on

By Helen Preston, counsellor, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) expert and reiki practitioner.

In 2007, I read an article in the Sunday Times that changed my life. It resonated with me very strongly, although at the time I had no idea why. I cut out the page and stuck it in my ‘little book of inspiration’.

It was written by a woman who called herself an “intuitive”. She was sharing a little of what she did, how she did it and how she helped others to make sense of their lives. These words were particularly emotive for me:

“The inner world is created first, our thoughts create our environment. So it’s about what you decide you are about to become. When we truly know ourselves from the inside out, we no longer look to the outside world for validity. Inner beauty comes when we ‘know’ ourselves and it manifests as confidence and self-assurance.”

At that time, I was lacking in confidence and self-assurance. We’d moved house for the fourth time in five years, my children were very young and I was a wife, a daughter, a sister, a mother and a friend. But I didn’t really know who ‘I’ was.

I had a feeling there was something I was missing but didn’t know where to start the search for ‘it’. I just knew I needed to keep those words. What I didn’t do was write down the woman’s name. I cut out her picture – she’s looking gently into the camera’s lens and there is peace in her eyes. As corny as it may sound, she has the serenity of an angel.

The thing I’ve grown to realise is that you don’t know what you don’t know. That said, I’ve grown to believe, through my own experience, that what you need to know will show up – sometimes in the words you read in a book or hear in the lyrics of a song, sometimes through a chance encounter with a stranger or a poster on the side of a bus. The messages are everywhere – we just aren’t looking. Our lives are too busy, too frantic and too stressful to notice.

From the moment we are born, we are being conditioned. We are taught to seek approval. We are discouraged from being who we naturally are for the convenience of others. Fear is ever present. As the BeeGees once sang, ‘staying alive’ is what it’s all about. And of course this is true, but there’s a big difference between surviving and thriving.

In the article, the intuitive said: “Some people don’t understand what I do – including my own father. But I never really edit who I am. Not everyone can like you: I learned that in the playground.”

Looking inside

Woman meditating on a mountain
Woman meditating on top of a mountain (Bigstock)

Back in 2007, I was surviving too and it didn’t feel great. My stomach was tight, my breath shallow and my fear and anxiety levels high. I was still editing myself for others. I was the people-pleaser I’d learned to be from early on. In truth, I didn’t know who I was. But I knew there must be more to life than this.

The Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung once said: “Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakens.” I say: “If you don’t go within, you go without” – and I say that because it scares me how much would have been left undiscovered if I hadn’t sought out a relationship with my spiritual self.

Instead I rocked up at a spiritual development group at The Arthur Findley College in Essex’s Stansted Mountfitchet in 2010 after a ‘chance’ conversation with a stranger at a party who made the suggestion. I learned to meditate. I learned to let go of fear. I learned to open up to my feelings and feel safe doing so. I developed a trust in myself I had never imagined I could feel. I developed inner confidence, resilience and contentment. I found my tribe after a lifetime of feeling like the odd one out. It turns out that I wasn’t so odd after all.

But Jung also talks of the shadow side – the part of us that we don’t want others to see and that we find difficult to accept is within us. We can hardly bear to experience those feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, of not being good enough or of not being lovable.

So rather than sit and feel the discomfort of those old wounds and try to find healing, we distract ourselves with activity. We try to escape from something that is intrinsically part of us. A client once told me that after having ‘run away’ to Hong Kong to escape her pain, she realised that she had simply taken herself with her. As a result, she realised it was necessary to face her inner suffering and heal it in order to be free.

So what does spirituality mean to me? It means living in the here and now, being aware of what is around you, but also feeling what is within and working with your own inner peace. It is living your life from a position of unconditional love rather than fear, having faith and trust that everything is happening exactly as it should be, and learning from life’s lessons.

At the time, I didn’t have the first idea why that article spoke to me. But although I had no real understanding of what the intuitive was saying, I did feel it was important in some way.

Like a clue in a ‘Scooby Do’ cartoon, one piece of the puzzle appears to make no sense in isolation, but if you pick it up and take it with you, you’ll be one step closer to solving the mystery. Actually since then, I’ve collected a whole book full of clues: sayings, articles, inspiring words that others have shared which resonated with me. And each clue has taken me one step closer to me.

image1 (1)

Helen Preston is a counsellor, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) expert and reiki practitioner. Her approach to therapy acknowledges the crucial inter-relationship of mind, body and spirit. Helen is a member of the National Counselling Society and has an Advanced Diploma in psychotherapy and counselling, a Diploma in Hypnotherapy and an EFT Master Practitioner certificate.

Inspiring stories

Journeying to wisdom: The five totemic beasts of Britain

Leaping salmon
Atlantic Salmon, Salmo salar, leaping in turbulent waterfalls in Boenfossen in Kristiansand, Norway

By Cath Everett, content editor of The Spirit of East Anglia community.

It must be said, I do like a good myth – and one I’ve come across lately that seems to be of particular significance in iconic British terms is Culhwch and Olwen.

Believed to be the earliest of the Arthurian romances and the oldest surviving prose tale written in Medieval Welsh no less, a complete version was found in the Red Book of Hergest, a manuscript of yarns and fables written sometime between 1375 and 1425. Another more fragmented account also made its appearance in the White Book of Rhydderch, which was produced in 1350 and is the earliest known anthology of Welsh prose.

Anyway, it is essentially the story of the aforementioned Culhwch, who is the son of King Kilydd. He marries Goleuddydd, who sadly loses her mind during pregnancy, which results in Culhwch being born in a pig-run and raised by a swineherd until he comes of age.

In the meantime, King Kilydd takes himself a new queen who is unhappy on discovering he has no direct heir. But hearing of Culhwch’s existence, she calls him to court in the hope of marrying him off to her daughter and securing the succession.

Finding Olwen

Culhwch refuses though and in a fury, the queen puts a curse on him. This means he is no longer free to marry anyone but Olwen, the beautiful daughter of the king of the giants, Ysbaddaden Pencawr. Luckily however, Culhwch becomes obsessed with the idea of her – although his father warns him that he will never be able to find her without the help of his famous cousin, King Arthur.

So off Culhwch goes to Arthur’s court in Celliwig, Cornwall, to seek his help. After Arthur’s scouts have searched for Olwen for a year to no avail, he gives Culhwch half a dozen handpicked men and, on discovering her, Culhwch is, of course, stunned by her beauty and falls in love.

Although Olwen is quite taken with Culhwch herself, the problem is that her dad is fated to die if she marries, which means he will, understandably, only consent if Culhwch completes a series of nearly impossible tasks. Which, of course he does, before eventually killing poor, old Ysbaddaden, and finally winning his bride.

But the reason that I mention all of this is that, not only is the story a classic, traditional prose tale, believed to be the closest to the original oral version still in existence. But interestingly, one of the tasks also makes mention of Britain’s primary five totemic creatures.

To explain a little further, the aim of the task in question was to recover an exalted prisoner, Mabon, son of the Earth Mother goddess, Modron, and Child of Light, who was imprisoned in the Underworld. But to do so, it was necessary to seek the counsel of the oldest animal in the world.

Blackbird at twilight
Blackbird at twilight.
  1. Blackbird: Calling us to start our journey

So off Culhwch and the rest of his crew go to find the oldest creature they can think of, which is the ancient Blackbird of Cilgwi. Blackbirds are interesting in this context because at twilight, they are said to stand at the threshold between this world and the Otherworld, calling to us with their song.

They urge us to listen to our souls and follow a spiritual path, exploring our inner world through dreams and myths to understand our hidden motivations and potential. By heeding Blackbird’s song, it is said, you can find your way to healing and forge a new reality for yourself based on purpose and passion.

  1. Stag: Helping us to let go

Unfortunately though, the Blackbird knew nothing of Mabon and instead directed the men to a still older animal, the Stag of Rhedynfr on Fernbrake (another name for bracken) Hill in the Forest of Dean. The stag is a messenger from the Otherworld and brings with him the power and knowledge of this realm.

He teaches us the qualities of integrity, grace and dignity, but also symbolises new beginnings and having the strength to let go of unnecessary possessions or emotional attachments in order to gain and maintain your independence, both spiritually and physically.

  1. Owl: Teaching us to engage with life

But the Stag did not know where Mabon was either and so he led the men to the Owl of Cawlwyd. Owls signify esoteric wisdom, a wisdom that comes from objectivity and discernment as they wait and watch – although it is important not to take such detachment too far or hold back too much in case you end up not feeling fully alive, with all the vulnerability this entails.

Owl, meanwhile, is also the totem bird of clairvoyance and astral travel, while likewise signifying the spiral of death and rebirth – the death of one thing, which often leads to the birth of another. He also teaches us the wisdom of turning a disadvantage to an advantage – while most birds are unable to feed in the dark, his amazing hearing enables him to pursue unsuspecting prey while others are asleep.

  1. Eagle: Guiding us to balance mind and heart

Anyway, Owl also had no clue where Mabon was imprisoned and so took the men to meet the Eagle of Gwernaby instead. An important thing to know about eagles is that they are both intelligent and courageous. They help you see life in a wider context, enabling you to come up with clear and objective goals and take appropriate decisions.

Eagles also denote a sense of purpose and the courage to see your goals through to the end, showing you how to renew yourself by plunging at just the right moment into the lake of emotions to catch the Salmon, with which he is closely linked.

The idea is that Eagle denotes our masculine, fiery, intellect, while the lake represents our feminine, watery emotions and the unconscious. If Eagle cannot find the lake, he will starve. Put another way, if we prevent our minds from accessing our hearts, we become overly analytical and our lives become dry and sterile. So it is vital that our minds and hearts remain in balance.

  1. Salmon: Urging us to connect with the dancing child within

And as such, it is Eagle who takes the men to meet the Oldest Animal of all, Bradan, the Salmon of Llyn Llyw (the Lake of the Leader), who is swimming in the Well of Segais at the source of all life. Salmon teaches us wisdom – despite the odds, he always returns to the place of his birth to mate. In the same way, to understand ourselves and our motivations fully, we must also journey back to our beginnings and get to grips with our life experiences.

But it is also worth considering that Salmon is the only creature able to lead Culhwch and his men to the Divine Child, Mabon. Mabon is associated with ChristOrpheus and Apollo, who each symbolise eternal life. In other words, being able to relate to the child within and maintaining a childlike attitude based on openness, innocence and humility will take you on the path to true wisdom.

And so there you have it. Like the Fool in Tarot eternally making his journey, it is about finding ways to integrate the disparate parts of ourselves in order to achieve wholeness, happiness and fulfilment. So good luck – and bon voyage.

Cath Everett

Cath Everett is content editor of the Spirit of East Anglia website.