Early in Spring 2017, the British Pilgrimage Trust (Will, Guy and our friend the writer Alice Albinia) walked for 6 days on a pilgrimage to connect the Roman with the Ancient British (Cymraeg) stories of this holy landscape - and to honour, if we could, both lineages.
Ynys Mon - Anglesey - was the motherlands of the Druidic religion, the bastion of security and organised resistance to Rome. When Rome sent its best crack troops on a deliberate systematic invasion, Anglesey, like all who stood before Rome, fell - brutally and bloodily.
Today, with the Brexit surprise, we are again amid a period of uncertain and tense relations between Europe (Rome) and Britain (Cymru). We hope that it will not erupt as it did only 100 years ago. So in an effort to balm this ancient and ongoing tension, our pilgrimage quest was to sing the oldest Welsh lullaby - called 'Pais Dinogad' - at every holy place we could find - Roman, Christian, and Druidic - as well as shared-identity holy places too (which most are).
Unfortunately, there is no known melody for this song. So our journey was also a process of listening - trying to hear the remnants of this song's melody in the wind, the sea, the birds, and ourselves. After all, Angelsey is known as Mon Mam Cymru - the Mother of Wales - and where better to go seeking a lost lullaby than the Mother?
So we did - all the way from Segontium, the Roman fort built to keep this hard-won powerspot - to Holyhead Mountain, on Holy Island - an island off an island off an island - the sacred mountain of Ancient Britain.
We slept home-free all the way - usually around Churches, which technically belong to all of us. And we ate really well - a sponsor donated food cash before we left, so we did not hold back, but ate some of Angelsey's finest foods. If you are a gastro-pilgrim, you'll like it up here. Amazing wild oysters - laverbreads - and absurdly good coffee shops dotted around too. This may be Wild North Wales - but it is not short of some truly excellent hospitality. Perfect, as we found, for the modern British pilgrim. At times, we felt very Roman, quaffing and feasting. At other times, sleeping inches from the waves, cut by great sharp winds, we felt most Druidic.
As for the melody, I'm not sure if we really found it. As you will hear. My version (Will's) was like a lament for a father who is never coming back. Guy's (latter) half is more pre-Battle, before a charge against the Orc (or Roman) frontline to meet almost certain death. BUT - this lost lullaby was found in the margin of a 7th century poem called Y Goddodin - which is all about the Old Welsh kingdoms sending their finest warriors out on a quest to recapture the Kingdom of Northumbria, which used to be part of Wales. But all, bar four, die in the trying.
So maybe this lullaby has soaked up some of that ancient darkness and defeat. Certainly, the sacred isles of Anglesey and Holy Island are only partially honoured in the way the Druids would have recognised. Today, there are huge roads - nuclear power - heavy industry - and a very strong sense that the spirit of this land remains under Roman occupation. But for that, as modern British people, we do also have to be grateful. We like switching on lights - and using cheap metal tools - and driving around easily. But we also like the song of the wind through the ancient Oak and the crashing wave at the break of dawn.
Both stories are still alive in Anglesey. |Find out yourself. Come make your pilgrimage here, among Ancient Britain's holiest land. Come. And bring a song of peace.
We'll see you on the path...
PAIS DINOGAD (Old Welsh)
Peis dinogat e vreith vreith.
o grwyn balaot ban wreith.
chwit chwit chwidogeith.
gochanwn gochenyn wythgeith.
pan elei dy dat ty e helya;
llath ar y ysgwyd llory eny law.
ef gelwi gwn gogyhwc.
giff gaff. dhaly dhaly dhwg dhwg.
ef lledi bysc yng corwc.
mal ban llad. llew llywywg.
pan elei dy dat ty e vynyd.
dydygai ef penn ywrch penn gwythwch pen hyd.