Chapter 3: The Faery Door

Standing on her tiptoes Lisbet Mary could just reach the wooden lever hidden inside the niche. Not sure what to do next, she pulled her hand away and read the instructions again. She was shivering in the cold, dark tunnel, wishing she had put on her extra thick winter cloak; but she was glad of her sturdy boots. Autumn in her Welsh valley was beautiful, but she had little time to admire the russett trees as she had hurried along the route to the standing stones. Now she was below the stones, in an underground realm, deep in the Faery Well where all was grey and damp. She sneezed!

By the light of the torch fire, she spread out the map on the top step of the stairway. Some of the words were a bit strange, but she could recognize the ancient symbols etched in black on the worn, leather map. She wished her grandmother was beside her now, guiding her, as she glanced up at her own shadow dancing in the torchlight. She spoke out loud to steady herself.

“I have the gift to complete the task. I know the meanings of the runes. Grandmother Elizabeth taught me long ago.”

With her small trembling fingers she now traced the shapes of the runes carved into the rock wall inside the niche. In a small, high pitched voice, she read the words out loud.

Climb the winding stairs beside the iron gates

  Find the niche behind Teiwaz, guarding doors

  Reach inside and find the lever Thurisaz

  Pull toward you, and the Underworld is yours.”

She had found the iron gates, after her thousands of steps along the tunnels hewn into the rock, and climbed the winding stairs. A scary grown up adventure for little Lisbet Mary. Facing her now were the heavy oak barriers to the Otherworld.

She had found the statue of the warrior Tiewaz in a niche beside the carved Faery Doors after searching by her firelight. She knew about Tiewaz, the Sky God, the spiritual warrior, the one whose battle is always with oneself.  His sign, the upward facing arrow, is easily recognisable. And she knew about his message for all travellers.

‘Remain mindful that timely right action and correct conduct are your only true protection’.

She also knew about Thurisaz the God Thor, the Gateway. He reminded her that

‘… the gateway is to be approached and passed through with contemplation’.

The Runes and their teachings had been with her for as long as she could remember. Stepping up once more, intent on her task, she whispered the lines again and pulled the lever forward, slowly.

She heard the creaking of the hinges as the two carved doors swung inwards before her. A large room lay beyond. Blinking in the shadowy light, she looked back, reassuring herself that she was alone. The shadows grew and shrank as she waved the torch from left to right, and then she turned to face the open doorway. The waft of woody scents delighted her senses, and she took a deep breath.

Holding the torch high in her left hand, Lisbet Mary stepped through the doorway into the Otherworld. She trailed her fingers across the carved door on her right, marvelling at the scenes of idyllic woodland beauty, and the Faeries. She took three steps forward – her teeth no longer chattering, but her nose was cold and runny. She took out her white handkerchief from her jacket pocket and wiped away the dust from her face, wiping her nose at the same time. Some of her tawny curls had escaped from her hooded jacket and she reached up to push them back, smoothing her fringe into place.

She looked down at her knees and brushed away the dust and dirt that had clung to her breeches as she had knelt on the stairway to read her map. Thinking of the last words of wisdom she had learned from Grandma Elizabeth, she tucked the handkerchief back in her jacket pocket.

“A little ‘spit and polish’ will surely set you on your way. You must be well dressed and groomed appropriately to meet the Faeries; lest they think you ill-mannered and rude.”

Suddenly, from behind her, the creaking noise began again, and she jumped forward in surprise as the doors swung shut with a loud resounding THUD. She could feel her heart pounding, her hands were moist, her lips were dry, and her bravado was thinning out as she wondered just ‘who’ she was going to meet down here in the Otherworld.

Lisbet’s deep blue eyes grew big and round, widening as she peered into the ‘first room’ of the Otherworld. She felt the circular, wooden walls knotted and rough, like the bark of the trees. Here and there, she saw niches were filled with miniature wooden cups, tiny silver swords and small glass bottles filled with brightly coloured liquids. She thought she could hear the sound of tinkling bells somewhere beyond the room. She crept forward another six steps and realised that she was inside a large hollow tree; the woody smell aromatic and comforting.

All was still, like the room was holding its breath!


Chapter 2: Bones upon bones

As she descended the steps into the well, Lisbet could smell the damp earth. Pungent and persistent smells became stronger the lower she descended into the gloom. Another elusive odour then caused her to take in her breath in a short sharp gasp, it was of something long dead. Trembling, she felt along the knubbly walls to steady her steps and with another sharp intake, she drew back her fingers. There was a different surface here now, smooth in places yet familiar shapes jumbled together. She looked and saw that the walls were inlaid with bones.

She stopped at the base of the steps and lit her torch of reeds, just as she had been instructed to do. She fumbled with the flint; it was a new skill for her and it took a little time before she could coax a spark from it by striking the flint hard against the stone of the floor beneath her. She held the reed torch closer with one hand as she tried again to make a spark – then gradually a small wisp of smoke arose as she sparked the reeds of the torch. Carefully she blew on the reeds and a flame was born – the torch was alight. Lisbet held her firebrand high above her head as she peered into the cavernous space at the bottom of the well. She gasped again as she realised that the walls of the circular cavern were all lined with human bones, as far as she could see.

At head height, perhaps a foot or two above her own head, the walls were studded with human skulls, each one angled just enough to appear as though looking down upon her gazing from below. Countless bones, arms, ribs, legs, the remains of thousands of people long dead adorned the walls from the skulls to the ground. They were not arranged as if whole skeletons, just a jumble of various bones. The foot bones of the dead, at the lowest point, were all pointing in one direction down the long corridor leading away from the chamber. As she moved forward, the light from the torch flames cast eerie shadows on the bones, and she sneezed in the thick dusty air, undisturbed for decades.

She looked down to see her own footprints in the dust, trailing back to the stone steps, where she could just see the last rays of the setting sun from the world above. A low scraping noise  sounded again, stone on stone, made her shiver and turn towards her target as the opening to the Faery well closed, shutting out the light and hiding her from sight.

Lisbet counted her steps calling each one out loudly and listened to her own voice echo over and over again, 100, … 500, …1000. Nothing else could be heard, nothing else moved, nothing else could be seen. Her own heart beat was drumming in her ears as she carefully made her way through the outer chamber of the Otherworld. At 1000 steps she saw that the chamber narrowed to a thin wedge shaped opening in the far wall. Above this niche she saw the rune sign Thurisaz, the Gateway, the first of the twelve etched into the stone wall – and knew she was on the right track. Above her were iron sprial railings and stone spiral stairs leading upward again. She repeated the sign in the dirt at her feet, drawing it firmly in the damp earth with her free hand.

She now peered upward into this strange entrance to the Otherworld, chanting to herself: “One thousand steps”, and bravely began her ascent. Bone walls were now left behind, the spiral stairway was hewn from the rock itself, and led her on for another thousand steps. At each 100 steps she found ancient torches in sconces attached to the rock with iron rings. She touched her own torch to these as she went, and created an illuminated pathway, noting the ancient runes etched into the rock beside each torch – ten more messages from the ancient ones.

She drew her cloak closely around her as the air began to get colder and colder. She knew that the twelfth rune would announce her arrival in the Otherworld.


Chapter 1: The Faery Well

It was a clear, bright Autumn afternoon in Treffgarne, the eve of Beltane, when Lisbet Mary began her journey into the Whirrham Way. The four brown hens were busy clucking their way through the fields and she drew them into the kitchen garden and scattered the seeds for them. They were greedily feasting on these as she latched the garden gate and walked towards the grove behind her grandmother’s cottage. She had on her everyday clothes –  the sort that her mother Lettice would not mind if she got them dirty. Her look was determined as she followed the well worn path to the standing stones. Lisbet Mary had been to the stones many times, and she knew them all. She had felt their craggy faces and often paced the distance between these sentinels guarding the Faery Well. She knew each one of these granite stones standing in a circle inside the grove, hidden from the roads by the Oak and Rowan trees. They had stood there for centuries and would, most likely, stay standing there for centuries to come.

Grandmother’s cottage stood cold and brooding at the edge of Wolfscastle Forest; no smoke from the chimney, no smell of fresh baked bread from the oven, and no loving arms to grett her. Lisbet was waiting for that special moment at dusk when the ‘jack-o-lanterns’ flitted over the marshy ground, shining their phosphorescent light to show what mostly stayed hidden in darkness. She waited for the right time to find the opening to the Faery Well – her new place of learning. She was glad it was not Friday. Friday was when those stricken with the ‘falling sickness’ came to the stones to be cured. These folk were frightening with their strange ways and looks and often brought in the cocks and hens to the stones – offering them as sacrifice for the sake of their cure. She thought it was very cruel to use these lovely feathery creatures so violently – she usually stayed away on Fridays.

She waited for the time when the moon began to rise and the sun to begin its descent, sending out its speared flames of gold to bathe all below in the glow. The skylarks and the robins would begin their even’ song and if you listened carefully you could even hear the wind sighing through the Aspens near the river and the soft swish of their drooping boughs as they lapped the water. It was like the earth was holding its breath! This was the magical time when the ending light shone directly into the circle of stones and illuminated the old markings.

Lisbet loved this time of day and was not afraid as she walked through the grove of Aspens, and then deeper into the forest of Oak and Rowan trees. She stopped just once to pull her hooded jacket close around her, then walked on to the great stone circle of Treffgarne.

Lisbet Mary stepped into the circle and paced her way round each of the sentinels once, then twice and on the third sweep, stopped to place her hands gently on their faces, tracing their marks and feeling the light tingle in her fingertips. She was following the ancient way, the way that many before her had practised, and remembering what she needed to do. She now knew the runes and their meanings and started again to place her hands on them, this time in the order she had learned. The order was important – press them wrongly and the Faery Well would remain hidden – press them right and the entrance to the Well would be revealed. Twelve stones, twelve paces between each one and twelve runes on each. The key, the right way to reveal all, was to press the one essential rune on each stone in the right order. Only those with the ‘gift of knowing’ could lead her to the stones and only one with the ‘ancient code’ could teach her the right order.

Her own grandmother Elizabeth had taken Lisbet Mary to the stones, each year in May, every since she was old enough to walk. Beltane was the time when her grandmother would tell her the old stories and teach her the way of the runes. She had taught her how to look for the runes at dusk, when the light was right. She had taught her how to walk among the stones and to embrace them and know them. She had shown her where the ‘key’ runes were on each stone and explain their meaning. She had promised to teach Lisbet Mary the right order for selecting the runes when she was old enough and tall enough to reach the highest marks. She told her of the ‘ancient code’ being passed down from grandmother to granddaughter for centuries and that at the age of seven, she would be ready.

The stories beguiled and enthralled Lisbet Mary and she was eager to be seven, eager to be ready. She knew she was being taught important lessons and she concentrated hard when Grandmother Elizabeth was speaking to her, in her soft whispery voice. She was told that she already had the ‘gift of knowing’ – how she had been born with a caul covering her face – and how she was always seen as special, and treated differently by the people of Treffgarne. To her delight she was also told the truth about the Faery Well – it was hidden inside the circle of stones – and was the entrance to the ‘otherworld’. “You will only be able to reach the ‘otherworld’ when you are old enough to press the key runes in the right stones, in the right order and in the right time,” her grandmother said. “Only then will you be able to begin your journey into the Whirrham Way, as I have done before you.” Grandmother Elizabeth then passed on the ‘ancient code’ in the words of the song, and told her how to use the runes in the stone circle.

” Listen for the song o’ the moon
As she waxes and wanes
Bringing light into darkness
And bathing night with her glow.

You are one with the moon
As you drift into dreams
Guiding you to truth and the Way
And returning the love that you know.

Listen to the song o’ the moon …. “

Now it was time! Lisbet Mary say her song and completed her third circuit of the stones, pressing each of the twelve key runes, in the right order! First Thurisaz as it is the gateway. Sceond Berkana for new beginnings. Third Wunjo for success. Fourth Othal for legacies. Fifth Eihwaz for protection. Sixth Laguz for intuition. Seventh Gebo for committment. Eighth Ansuz for wisdom. Ninth Kenaz for enlightenment. Tenth Uruz for strength. Eleventh Tiewaz the warrior. Twelfth Rhaido the journey.

Thurisaz (thoor-ee-saz) Thurisaz – the gateway

Berkana (bear-cah-nah)Berkana – new beginnings

Wunjo (voon-yoe)Wunjo – success

Othala (oe-thah-lah)Othala – legacies

Eihwaz (eye-vahz)Eihwaz – protection

Laguz (lah-gooz)Laguz – intuition

Gebo (geh-boe)Gebo – committment

Ansuz (ahn-sooz)Ansuz – wisdom

Kenaz (can-aaz)Kenaz – enlightenment

Uruz (or-rooz)Uruz – strength

Tiewaz (tee-vaz)Teiwaz – the warrior

Raidho (rye-ee-doe)Raidho – journey

She heard a faint rock on rock scraping sound which grew louder as she whirled around to face the centre of the stone circle. Another arched stone of granite rose from the earth, still covered in clods of dirt, and revealed a darker patch of dirt right in front of the stone. It was inside this dark patch that she could now see a set of stone steps descending into the earth. Her heart was racing now as she moved quickly to the stairway, and breathed in the earthy smell from the Faery Well. As she cautiously peered down she realised she would need to be quick, as the sun’s rays were leaving the sky and all would soon be in darkness. She took a deep breath and put on her brave face, and began to descend the twelve steps in to the Faery Well.


Lisbet’s Song

It was dark and wet in Friar’s Lane as Lisbet hurried down past the old Priory walls and into the back alleyways on her way to Shut Street. Another dark ‘Whirrham’ call from a soul in need and she knew that a young woman was in trouble. She knocked on the door of number 55 and pushed it open, calling out “Hallo!” as she entered. In the darkened space she smelt the bitter tang of mildew but was warmed by the sight of a fire in the hearth. An old blackened kettle was steaming on the hob and the soft moans of a woman in pain drew her attention to the figure on the bed, an old iron cot, in one corner of the room. The woman began to cry and groan as Lisbet came inside and shut the door. Lisbet took off her damp cloak and hung it to dry near the fire, placing her bag and basket on the only chair in the space. She took one look at the young woman on the cot and saw the fear in her eyes. ‘A first one?’ she asked. The woman nodded her head, tears streaming down her face, her hair plastering closely and the look of despair in her eyes.

Lisbet reached for her old leather bag, peering into the blackness for the small vial of berries she had picked and dried last summer. “You need the soothing of the Rowan berries”, she said as she took out the vial and the small wooden cup from the bag. “What is your name, lass?” she asked as she carefully poured a measure of the berries into the cup and filled it with water from the boiling kettle.

“Ehedydd”, said the young woman.

Stirring and blowing the steam from the cup Lisbet brought it to the woman and held it carefully to her lips, cradling her head as she sipped the sweet elixir. “Here take this my lovely lass, it’ll help with the pain!” Ehedydd’s sobbing slowed and her breathing returned to normal, but she clung desperately to Lisbet’s arm and there was wild alarm in her eyes! “Your baby will be safely born here tonight, do not fear!” Lisbet whispered.

Libet’s mind delved deeper into this certainty as she remembered her calling and her teachings from her ‘Merlin’. She knew that the Rowan berry elixir would calm the nerves and ease the pain of childbirth as it had done for many before her. She herself had ‘sipped of the Rowan’ when her own daughter Lettice was born. Her own sweet Tuesday’s child – full of grace.

She whispered again to Ehedydd, as she laid out her birthing tools; the clamp, the scissors, the cloths, the bowl and the swaddling clothes. “Let the Rowan ease your pain and soothe your mind”. This young woman in labour was the last of those that Lisbet would attend –  she did not know that for sure – just a warning voice in her mind to take great care of the child to be born this night. She carried out the tasks in preparing for the child’s passage into this world and dreamed her dreams whilst soothing the fears of her young patient. Hours went by as the labour pains quickened and the cries of pain focussed their actions. “In a few more pushes, your baby’s head will emerge.” Taking a deep breath the woman bore down and pushed her baby’s golden head out with nothing more than a heavy sigh! “Pant now!” Lisbet told her as they waited for the next wave of pain.

Lisbet looked down at the ‘caul’ covering the baby’s face and told Ehedydd “This child is one of god’s chosen”. Not letting the woman see her frown she prepared to receive the child as the final push heaved the rest of this little girl into the world. Ehedydd was spent as the baby burst out in a bloody rush! She took one more deep breath and then slumped back onto the cot, her face now ashen where once it had been ruddy from exertion. “A very special child!” said Lisbet as she clamped and cut the umbilical cord. “the child who is born on the Sabbath Day, is bonny and blithe and good and gay!”

Ehedydd did not hear Lisbet’s words, she died without a murmur, leaving her blessed infant in someone else’s care!

Lisbet looked up and cursed loudly ‘another damned soul lost in childbirth’!

Removing the caul gently from the face of the infant, Lisbet gazed upon this ‘faery fae’ – her eyes wide in amazement! The bluest of pale blue eyes blinked as the child smiled briefly – or was that her own imagination! She set the precious caul aside in the bowl, being careful to not fold or crease it. She then wrapped the child in the white shawl – a significant colour for this young girl – and walked to the doorway, opened the door to see the pale pink streaks of dawn painting the sky. The rain had ceased and the puddles were reflecting the sparkling dawn; she breathed in the sweet smell of her new charge. “I will call you Swynwr! Come away with me, o human child” she whispered to the little girl sleeping gently in her arms.

Lisbet gathered her cloths, potions, and other things, returning them to the leather bag. She laid the child gently into the basket and covered her with her now dry cloak, wrapped and placed the caul in the bowl at the other end of the basket. She then attended to the dead mother, removing the afterbirth and discarding in the hearth, cleaning her body and combing her hair, she gently laid her out for the undertaker. All the while she sang:

‘Come away with me, o human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand’

The Stolen Child, William Butler Yeats, 1886

“Soon the otherworld will be greeting you, my little skylark, lovely lass! I’ll take good care of your little faery fae, Swynwr.”

The last thing Lisbet did was to make a bouquet of dried birch, cypress and elder for her safe passage. She tied it with a black ribbon, and placed it in the hands of Ehedydd arranged in prayer upon her chest. “Mistress Morgana will know I have been with you this night – god speed you on your journey to the otherworld”.

The sky was reddening deeper now, a shepherd’s warning she thought, as she hurried back down Shut Street, past Fountain Row and onto the main road back to Merlin’s Bridge. “I’ll need to find you a wet nurse my lovely lass, if you are going to have a chance in this world.”

The early Sunday bells of St Mary’s were ringing out a knell, three times two, as if they already knew that one more soul had been dispelled.



Mary’s Quest

Mary, George, Lettice and David, along with all the other labourers’ families lived in their neat little cottages in the Row, and it was in this cottage where Mary’s next brothers were born. John then Richard, just two years apart. Next came Thomas and William – they were not born strong and only lived for a short three years each.

The late 1830’s were not kind to the Evans. Mary was the only light that brightened up their lives and gave them hope! She had the way about her! She had indeed been here before!

Mary’s Quest

………”You are needed, your way begins, Look inward, the gateway is open”….

Mary first heard these words on the wind waking her from sleep – the night of the raging storm. When Mary stirred, rain was in the air, but not yet here – just that familiar metal smell and the rushing of the wind through the trees in the woods. She slipped quietly from her bed, her bare feet flinching on hard cold slate, and tip toed to the window. She unlatched the window shutter without a second thought of fear and pushed the window wide. Gazing out she searched for her moon! Was it there? Yes! The moon glided into view from beneath the blackened swollen clouds, and she smiled. She shivered there in the cold waiting for the moon to rise and the rain to begin its rattling on the roof. She did not know where the gateway was waiting and why she was needed, but she knew she was ready.

Seven years old and strong in the way, Mary, was ready!

She shuttered the window and slipped back into her bed as the rain began to lash the house in fury! She must wait for daylight – the signs would be there.

Morning whispered in with the last of the storm clouds painting the reddening sky with streaks of grey. Her family still dreamed on, but Mary was awake. She dressed in her warm breeches, shirt and hooded woollen cloak. This was the beginning of her task, her quest, the beginning of new journey, a destination still yet to know. Mary had grown strong and independent, just like her mother before her, and she was trusted to come and go from the house, into the woods and sometimes beyond. She had timed the round trip from Fountain Row, through the woods, along Dew Street and into the High Street – she could do that in an hour or so. She had been to Treffgarne, many visits to her grandmother, and had timed that journey for two hours including time for tea and a story or more.

She looked now at Lisbet Mary, a mother herself now, still slumbering in her basket near the fireplace. The old scarf had grown grey and prickled now but was perfect for the latest new brood of kittens beneath the sleeping cat. Mary knelt down beside the basket and ran her fingers over the fur of the little tribe. The cat opened her eyes and began kneading the scarf in that contented way, purring all the while. Mary then knew what her quest was about, or who?

Memories of another black day came flooding in unbidden, as Mary set about gathering what she would need for her journey. She remembered the words bellowed by Lord Magistrate Hugh Owen Gwynne in the Guildhall on 13 June 1837.

“Elizabeth Mary Evans you are hereby charged and proven of witchcraft visited on the good people of Treffgarne. From here you be taken to the Castle deep – no light for your nights in prison save that of the moon, no warmth for your solace save that of the sun. Your head be shaved, your feet be shackled, and may God have mercy on your soul!”

Mary had been in the hall that Friday, clutching her mother’s skirts and peering at the crowds of Treffgarners, Prendergast and St Mary folk milling and glowering at them. As they heard the verdict the crowds cheered and jeered loudly. Fingers pointing and hands covering mouths whispering; tears from her parents and cries of Mercy, Mercy – her final memory of that day. There was no mercy that day for Eizabeth Mary and no joy for her family. All in shock!

“No quarter given. No evidence presented. Just bitter unjust accusations based on ignorance. All she had tried to do was save them from their own black hearts – shine a light where none had shone before – her last act bringing their wrath. Unfair. Not true.” she heard her mother repeating. “What last act? What was her crime? Why are they taking Grandmama away?” Mary asked her mother, desperately trying to understand. She knew only that she would be lost without her. “I will find her when I am big, Mama!” And she wrapped her arms round her mother’s neck, breathing in her pain and sorrow.

Three years had passed since that day! Lettice still grieved for the loss of her mother, not allowed to visit nor send her anything to ease her punishment. A bitter time only brightened by the birth of her two sons John and Richard, just two years apart. Playmates for George; two more littl’ns for Mary to care for. Three long years – avoiding the people – the ‘good people of Treffgarne’, no, the blackhearts of Treffgarne! Blackness and sorrow she meted out on those she knew; her mother’s neighbours, no her mother’s jailers. Mary knew only that she should stay away from Treffgarne, she did not know of her mother’s bitter vengeance. She did not understand why the crops turned black, or why the milk from their cows became sour or why her grandmother was not there to show her the way! That was then!

Now on this grey morning Mary thought of her brothers now sleeping in the big room, and her parents in their own room and of her grandmother languishing in her prison den. Mary was strong now, strong in the way and at the age of seven, shining and sure, she was indeed ready.

The cat glanced up just the once – as Mary gathered her rucksack, crossed the dimly lit room and clambered out of the window and gently landed in the soft earth of the garden below.


Mary’s Song

Mary was the eldest child of David and Lettice Evans and she was born and baptised in St Mary’s parish of Haverfordwest in Wales. She was my great grandmother and the gateway to my Welsh heritage – a fact that has drawn me down the pathways to discovery about the Welsh Cutting Line – over the last decade.

My mother was Winifred and her maiden name was Cutting and although she herself was English and married to an Englishman, her own mother, Mary Jane, was part of a generation of ancestors whose roots were deeply set in Wales. The name Mary goes back centuries in our clan!

Let me take you back to the 1830’s in Wales and uncover the extraordinary life of Mary Evans – or was it a life of ordinary deeds and ordinary events – I will let you be the judge of that.

Mary’s Song

The bells of St Mary’s rang out that day in May 1833 when Mary Evans was baptised, and the sky was whitewashed clean. There was a bustling and a jostling as David and Lettice carried their first born towards the altar for the blessing, there were many others doing their duty that day. Little Mary remained still and quiet in the Vicar’s arms, her pale blue eyes focussing on the droplets of water as they fell towards her. ‘She’s bin here b’fore, I can tell!” Said her grandmother as she received the white clad infant from the Vicar. ‘She’ll be right in the world, you mark my words.”

Lettice smiled softly as she watched her daughter’s baptism, glancing to the back of the church where she knew her own mother would be standing! Sudden tears were joyful and sad, all at once, and she looked now upon her auburn haired child, as radiant as any young mother should be.

My own sweet Mary, my Monday child so fair of face, I pray you will be kind, gracious and Safe. One day you will meet your namesake, your gran, Elizabeth Mary and things will indeed be right in the world. Lettice grew thoughtful now and remembered what her mother had sung to her whenever she was sad.

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”

Lettice had learned that knowing the Way, was her burden, not a gift. The Whirrham Way, her family trait – strong in the maternal line – she also knew would be passed on to Mary.

Lettice and David made their way out of the church, beaming with pride, so pleased to be celebrating this first big event in their first child’s life. There would be many more children they thought but this small bundle had already made a huge impact on their lives.
This child’s safe arrival, long awaited these past five years, renewed her faith in the Way.

“You were both too young! God will grant you a child when the time is right Lettice,” her mother had said. Lettice had miscarried two infants but had taken extra care in this pregnancy! Later she was to lose two more children but this was yet to come! Tears now as she considered what the future might hold for her little changling! Her fairy fae born in May!

When Mary was born she had the caul, and it was said then she would ‘have the gift of second sight’! Elizabeth Mary took this as an omen, of bad things to come and she wanted to keep the caul hidden away. She was afraid for her granddaughter!

May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.

David knew his child was an innocent, and destined for great things. Angry words had spoiled that happy birth day, in May. Yet
collusion between the grandmothers enabled Elizabeth Mary to attend the baptism, even though relegated to the small apse at the back of St Mary’s. Lettice was content that both grandmothers were there that day, but vowed to persuade her husband that there was wisdom in her mother’s caution! She had seen first hand how prejudice and fear had made her mother’s life a real struggle in the small community.

Not everyone saw the ‘fae’ as blessed or gifted. A few unenlightened towns folk were suspicious and often would call out “witch” or “devil” to her on the market days, even though Elizabeth Mary tried not to be noticed, covering her head and shoulders with a shawl. This had been so for many years now, and Lettice had learned the wisdom of silence.

Keeping her own gift hidden was her only solution – but that had taken its own toll – and she often regretted her decisions based on fear. Lettice knew the ‘way’ and practiced in secret – the healing, the fortelling and the guiding. She vowed to pass these on to her Mary. She did not regret her love for David and gave thanks every day for her marriage, and now for her first born child.

Mary learned to walk, to talk and began to understand the way as her mother taught her about the world. As young as 12 months Mary could walk for long periods before tiring, and she knew the names of the herbs in the garden, the birds in the trees and could recite these often. Mary would sit for hours in her favourite part of the kitchen garden where the cabbage butterflies fluttered and the fairy dust motes sparkled when she squinted in the sun. She laughed as the tiny insects and bugs crawled over her hands as she played in the dirt.

By the age of two Mary quietly independent and fearless would run to the edge of the woods behind their cottage, looking back over her shoulder and listening for her grandmother’s call. The trees were bigger, gnarlier and greyer in Fountain Wood, and many of the town folk would not enter at twilight fearing the shadows of this ancient forest. Mary held no such fear and would dance among the trunks of the trees, laughing and talking to them. She would run her hands over the knots and ridges of their bark, looking for signs. “Any Signs of fairy activity?” Grandmother Lisbet Mary would ask.

Her favourite things were her scarf from Lisbet Mary, her doll from Dadda, her trinket box from Mumma and strawberries! She now knew the names of the constellations in the sky, the animals on the farm and could count to 10 with ease.

By the time that Mary was three years old two important events had taken place – her brother George had arrived, and she had seen the way.

She loved her baby brother and would often try to cradle him and try to feed him herself! “Take her to the farm today David, she can pick out one of those newborn kittens to bring home. Maybe George and I will get some peace!” Said Lettice smiling.

The day was sharp and crisp and Mary was dressed in layers with her boots, favourite scarf and hat as well. She walked the mile path to Fountain Row alongside her father, her hand in his – and she breathed in all the new smells! The smell of the wind and the crackle of the leaves beneath her boots as she walked, filled her with wonder! “What do you do on the farm Dadda,” she asked? “Well now, littl’n there be the sheep to round up, the cattle to be fed and the sowing of the oats and barley for next season’s crops. But most important of all is to find where that cat has hidden her kittens in the barn! Do you want to help me with that?”

“Yes I would! I think I know where they are!” David smiled down at Mary – that special one he kept for those times when he was most proud of his daughter! Mary headed straight for the big barn at the edge of the farm, pushing through a gap in the open doors and swinging them back with a thud! She headed for the old pig sty at the back wall and crawled over the straw bales to a half broken crate in the corner. Peering into the dark retreat, she saw the kittens and heard the soft purring of the mother cat. One small kitten stopped feeding then to stare at Mary, and Mary reached out with a huge smile on her face!

Mary came home that day with a tiny bundle of ginger fur, the girl kitten that she had chosen! “I will call her Lisbet Mary”, she said to her mother. Then it was Lettice’s turn to smile and look up at David who just nodded. Lettice fetched a small basket from under her bed and handed it to Mary. “Maybe Lisbet Mary could sleep in this basket?” Mary laughed and put her favourite scarf in the basket and then gently lifted the kitten into it. She had all but forgotten about baby George – but not quite! Mary carried the basket with the sleeping kitten into the nursery and tiptoed up to his cradle and whispered, “Lisbet Mary is here now!”

She began to recite softly, the words what her grandmother had taught her, and there was a hush in the room:

” Listen for the song o’ the moon
As she waxes and wanes
Bringing light into darkness
And bathing night with her glow.

You are one with the moon
As you drift into dreams
Guiding you to truth and the Way
And returning the love that you know.

Listen to the song o’ the moon …. “

By the time Mary was seven, her grandmother Elizabeth Mary had been taken down!




Certificate of Marriage