Weekend Reading + a land of dragons

This isn’t the first time I’ve attempted to read the Mabinogion,

…a Welsh collection of ancient mythical tales first put to paper in medieval times, thought to be the UK’s oldest literary text.

In my early 20s, I dove in to these stories, but couldn’t get into them. Men with big swords? Women being sold and bargained with? Kingdoms and battles and egos, and the most painful degree of patriarchy? Nope nope nope. At that time, I hadn’t learned how to consume culture critically – I only knew that if it wasn’t cool (according to my personal/political definition) then I couldn’t have it, and didn’t want it anyway.

I return to these tales now with a different perspective. I can acknowledge and critique the problematic elements of the Mabinogi, but I can also find pleasure in them. I’m here for the half-humans, the goddesses, the dragons, the many magic spells. I’m here for the year and a day promises, the uncatchable horses, the romance and the trickery. There’s so much here to enjoy and learn. So many characters who are central to Welsh and Celtic mythology, and here is where we meet them first. The Mabinogion is also a historical text – the Celtic kingdoms under so much contention here were real and the fantastical stories are set against a backdrop of real-life warring and power struggles.

Here are just a few of the wonders I’ve read about so far… 

(I’m reading Sioned Davies’ translation, published by Oxford.)

…An immeasurably huge army of mice…that are actually people transformed into rodents in order to inflict a terrible crop-eating plague to punish a man.

…Rhiannon, who rides a horse that nobody can catch – even though it always looks like it’s going at a regular pace.

…A man who can only be killed as follows:

“‘By making a bath for me on a riverbank, and constructing an arched roof above the tub, and then thatching that well and watertight. And bringing a billygoat,’ he said, ‘and standing it beside the tub; and I place one foot on the back of the billy-goat and the other on the edge of the tub. Whoever should strike me in that position would bring about my death.’

‘Well,’ she said, ‘I thank God for that. That can be avoided easily.'”

(Spoiler: She has him killed in precisely this position.)

…A cauldron into which you can throw soldiers killed in battle, so that the next day they come back to life (a gift from Ireland).

…A plague that manifests as a terrible wailing on Beltane, that makes men weak and women miscarry and everybody go mad, that is actually caused by a never-ending battle between two dragons, the Welsh dragon wailing when maimed.

…The Three Fortunate Concealments, The Three Unfortunate Disclosures, The Three Unfortunate Blows, The Three People who Broke The Hearts From Sorrow, and Three of many other happy and sad things.

Anyway, back to reality. It’s the weekend!

Here’s some great reading to curl up with.

Let’s start with a song. Hit play!

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+ HUGE shout-out and gratitude to the activists who are currently succeeding in stopping the UK Arms Fair.

+ Croeso i Gymru | I recently moved to mid-Wales, close to where I grew up. Here are some *feelings*

+ Self-care after the incense burns out: Giving myself back to me

… I acknowledged the discomfort that I felt when I realized that my idea of self-care was dependent on consumerism. I asked myself this simple, yet humongous question: what does internal liberation look like? Immediately I knew that my answer involved not having to search for things outside of myself.

Catherine Liberan, For Harriet

+ The Witch’s Sabbat: Imagining a future society | Slutist envisions a Wiccan revolution.

+ Covered in Moondust: Tarot for Sad People | Genaviv introduces Alethea Inanna Francis’s zine.

+ Witch’s brew: Make an elder elixir for rituals (and fun) | A nice Sunday activity that involves going for a walk and pottering in the kitchen!

+ Five things every new tarot reader should learn | Helpful advice from Liz Worth

+ An interview with Casey Rocheteau, creator of Shrine of the Black Medusa Tarot | Asali talks to Casey about the process of creating this colourful collage tarot deck that celebrates Blackness and queerness.

+ Waiting for the perfect protest? | Advice to the white moderate.

+ A new narrative of whiteness is unfolding | It’s what you do with it that counts.

So let us focus for now not simply on the patriarchy or capitalism or how to break free of these things, let’s take a moment to imagine, dream if you like, of creating a new and better world.

Courtney E Martin, On Being

+ Living together: The environmental benefits of co-housing and communal living | Who’s in?

+ Invoking the great goddess Hecate, now more than ever | Beth Owls Daughter on her favourite deity.

+ Getting grounded: Weaving a non-linear creative process | Kohenet priestess-in-training Kathryn shares her creative rituals.

From the Malakh Halevanah / Moon Angels deck by Rebekah Erev

+ How to read a book the Magic School way | I love this!

+ How to fund your creative work on Patreon

+ We touch the same stuff: Queer feminist craft praxis as soft circuitry

What are we touching when we touch a thing crafted by someone else’s hands? What is the substance of a relationship, even a tenuous or mostly imagined one, when a crafted object mediates it? In combination with feminist theorizations of fiber craft, the language of soft circuitry offers useful metaphors for how to remake the world.

Melissa Rodgers, No More Potlucks

+ #TarotoftheQTPOC, forthcoming tarot decks to keep an eye out for! | OMG, have you seen the Lubanko Tarot?? Thanks Asali for the heads-up!

+ What is enough? | If you’re self-employed, this is good, good advice from Christy Tending.

+ Why I took off my hijab | One Muslim woman’s voice.

+ Passing through the threshold: Liminal stones for transitional phases | Anna Wong shares two of her favourite crystals for change.

+ Preventing deportation can be a life-saving measure, but it isn’t enough | Campaigners successfully stopped a flight intended to deport an Afghan refugee – this is really inspiring direct action.

+ Busy Woman: Knitting fog, plaiting corn | This update from community activist Mary Clear’s diary is a testament to all our grassroots activism could be. Mary is a beloved friend of mine, I hope everybody reads her words.

The public space is where we have chosen to demonstrate the biodiversity, the power of the soil, the seasons, the kindness of strangers.
That means what ever we do can be undone. What ever we build can be moved.
Every creature in the world can shit on our plants.
The public space is our space, we the people, the citizens, the sower of seeds.

Mary Clear, Incredible Edible Todmorden

+ 12 Years – Katrina/Harvey | Angeliska lost her New Orleans home in Katrina. Here are her reflections.

+ Why are the crucial questions about Hurricane Harvey not being asked? | George Monbiot on climate change and justice.

+ Outlasting Everything: Breathing affirmation in the wake of hurricane Harvey

We created a sacred circle that allowed us to imagine a decolonial reclaiming of space, a space sacred enough that we could be in place without being entrapped in capitalist narratives, a circle wide enough to include named and unnamed ancestors, a circle deep enough to birth futures.

Alexis, Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind

However you’re spending your weekend, friends, have a good one 🙂


Beth x

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  1. anna.acolyte says:

    I’m positively cackling over here as I most definitely had plucked the Mabinogion off of my shelf a few weeks ago to furiously check for a crystal reference to use in my September article in honour of your move!

    I hear you on revisiting things you may have dismissed in your past – taking a more nuanced look and opening yourself up. I feel like this is one of the greatest privileges that comes with aging: the ability to layer meanings and observe your own wisdom grow and change.
    So glad you posted a weekend article – just what I needed with my tea and the much longed-for backdrop of rain.

    • Beth says:

      Yes – it’s so nice to just allow yourself to change like this, as you say, layering things up.

      I can’t wait to read your September article! I wonder what crystal/reference it is…? I’ve seen plenty of white/clear quartz around and am learning bits and pieces of local geology, but I really don’t know much about crystals.

  2. bianca says:

    Aaand now I know what I’m going to borrow from the library next week! (I am especially eager to read about That Murder because I love genius ladies.)

    Also, wonderful links as usual! The one about how to read books is so intriguing that I’m going to try it right now. A thought: could it work with comics books, movies and/or video games too?

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