By John Davis

Albatross

A long time before I had any association with (or knowledge of) Druidry, I’d admired those enormous seabirds that soared on the winds above the Southern Ocean. They mate for life, raise only one chick every two years, live for fifty years and more, and travel thousands of miles every year facing whatever storms cross their path…..they epitomise the virtue of perseverance.

It isn’t surprising that there are many pieces of lore that have become attached to them. Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote his epic poem, The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,  in 1798 in which the albatross is given a Christ-like persona and the killing of the albatross is equated to the wilful killing of Christ and terrible consequences are heaped upon the mariner. His redemption is only brought about with a change of attitude towards life and his place within it….it is a story of transformation.

My wife and I sing sea songs and shanties at our local folk club, and a favourite is “Down upon the Southern Ocean” by Bob Watson. This song shows the deep sense of admiration and wonderment of the albatross by sailors in those lonely places.

It was these themes of redemption, transformation, admiration and wonder that drew me to the albatross when I began my druidic journey in my 60s after living, and working, the whole of my life thus far within a Christian context. In my latter years I had come to a point where I realised that my spiritual journey was moving away from what had been familiar….the restrictiveness of doctrine and certain aspects of practice were leading me onto another journey. I had to face feelings of regret, bereavement, confusion at what was passing, whilst holding onto hope for what was to come. During the first few months within the Bardic grade, I expressed these feelings in the following poem that I wrote…it will be read at my funeral.

Soaring high above the restless waves

I scan the scene with eyes both keen and bright.

I see for miles the unobstructed view

Till shadows fall and day turns into night.

Though dark surrounds, so many miles pass by;

The southern stars shine brightly all around,

A lonely path is my allotted course.

My instinct strong, the gods know where I’m bound.

At this small hour the air is calm and still.

With wings out-stretched I ride untroubled and unheard;

But, as dawn breaks, the east becomes enflamed,

A storm to face….I press on undeterred.

It’s all changed now, I’m tossed around the sky.

The wind…..so strong, the sea….all flecked and grey;

The future’s bleak.  If the gods be real,

Give inward strength and bear me up today.

With storm now passed, the gods had noticed me;

They did consult and agreed that I might live

To fulfil the task, that which was mine alone.

With uplifted wings my heart-felt thanks I give.

As I journey home, I’m much wiser than before;

I realise now that my task was to be me.

As I sweep the ocean, the truth is being revealed…..

A simple truth, yet profound…..I know that I am free.

Albatross (October 2015)

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