This post will have a lot of UPG. Take it for what you will.
Hiraeth, a Welsh word with no exact English definition. There are a few variations of the meaning scattered on the internet. But there are two definitions that really make sense to me. The first one is from Wikipedia, “It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past,” and the second from a Welshwoman studying abroad, “A longing to be where your spirit lives.”
Ever since discovering this word and the multiple layers behind it, it has stuck with me. But it is not until today that I truly understood the word. To be able to feel what the word means, not just to know the definition. It was a very surreal and fundamental moment for me.
I spent the afternoon with my Great-Uncle Ian at a small garden shop and tea room. It’s called The Secret Garden and it is truly a fitting name. A 400 year old building Just off of the A4042 you can easily blink and drive past it. We perused the grounds and looking at flora that he knew of far better than I. But even though I don’t know the specifics of each flower, I could still appreciate the place.
After a while we do what any self-respecting Brit does when possible, we drink some tea. Their tearoom overlooks the stereotypical Welsh countryside. A field of sheep with accompanying donkeys, and striking green hills. The best part of the entire view was that in the distance nestled in the valleys was my childhood hometown and Folly Tower, a local landmark that was originally built around 1765 or so.
We sat there until closing time and talked about life and nature, with him sharing his countless tales of past experiences I will never forget. But towards the end of the conversation right before we had to leave, I experienced hiraeth for the first time in a moment similar to the Eureka Effect.
The cold wind nipped at my face, laughter was tangible in the air, and Sól ignited the sky in an amber blaze before He ended His journey. At this moment I saw Cymru in all of its primal beauty. I saw my home. Not just the place I currently reside, but the place where my spirit lives. I saw the Green, Green Grass of Home. The fields and valleys that have sustained my People and ancestors for centuries. I saw the pride of Y Ddraig Goch that all Welshmen and Welshwoman share. But even then, there was something deeper still.
My spirit dwells not only with the people and lands of Wales, and all of Britain, but with the Gods and wihta of this island as well. While I was once content with refusing religion or believing in some form of Other, there was always something missing. A subtle void that always kept me pondering the possibilities. This island has worshipped many gods and goddesses; from Brigid to Vesta to Þunor, they are all a part of my past and they all influence my future.
I would at a time attempt to limit myself to only one Way. Though I have come to find that the Old Ways are not as simple as a solitary road leading from one place to the next. The Ways are more akin to a complex system of roads that may combine in places, diverge in others, or even run parallel within view of each other. And yet, all of these various roads have the possibility to find themselves at the same destination: To reach the Other, in whatever variety it may be in.
Where I used to be worried about only taking a specific road, to never diverge for the fear of finding myself lost. Now I have no such trepidation. I am content with weaving through the various roads, albeit with healthy caution. For to travel many is to have a far more complete and authentic view of the world; and in this instance, a more authentic view of the Old Ways my spirit has chosen to reside with.
Hiraeth is now a constant low ache in my heart. An addiction not dissimilar to that of an addict. For I experienced if only for a moment, the world that my ancestors lived. Where there was nothing but your inner-yard, the land to support you, and the Gods to watch over it all. A simpler time but perhaps a more fulfilling one. To have some semblance of that again is something to crave. The closest place I experience anything close to it when I’m with the Other. When life becomes an ephemerally simple matter of honouring the Other. Something that has happened since the beginning of time and will continue to do until the very end.
But I allow myself to divert on tangents. It is a habit that leads to attempting many conversations at once which often becomes a veritable mess of things. So I will return to the story at hand. Once the moment had passed and Sól escaped behind the mountains, we had to leave. But now the Garden was possessed by a new feeling entirely. The air was heavier and our movement sluggish. We sauntered around the premises once more but all the while followed by a white Labrador. He has lived in the Gardens for years, dutifully guarding the place. I believe he protected the place in more ways than one. For my family has said multiple times that they believe dogs live in two places at once. I see no reason to disagree with that opinion. There were many statues of gnomes scattered around. Whether this means that hobs lived around or not I do not know for sure, but the dog made sure to sniff each and every statue. I took that as a sign, for all we can do when it comes to Others is look for signs and omens.
With the experiences in both the tearoom and leaving the Gardens, I left that day with a certainty that I was home in every sense of the word. I am in the land of my ancestors once more, and following gods that once had power in the people’s hearts. And this, in all of its simplicity, is enough for me.
Most of these pictures were taken from The Secret Garden website. I did intend for this post to have a more direct intent when first writing it, as I had every intention of finishing it when I got back from the Gardens. However, life happens and it has been almost a month since the visit so the post has lost some of its intended meaning through the delay of my writing. But I had far too much written down already to just abandon the writing and seeing a draft every time I opened WordPress was slowly destroying my sanity.