“They went to Anglesey, to search for those of the craft and for enchanters” (Taliesin)
Môn, the Island of Anglesey, sacred island of the British Druids. Floating just off the northern coast of Wales, she is small by stature, yet majestic by nature, she is the Mother of all Wales and ‘Grandmother’ to the world. She is a seers dream, she is the place where magic lives and where dragons sleep awaiting the courage of heroes.
With just under 140 miles of glorious coastline she has fed, nurtured and kept a culture steeped in magic and mystery. Her name alone invokes the past, calling to the echoes of ancestors who whisper from her serene landscape. She is first referred to in European literature by the Emperor Julius Caesar circa 51 BCE, followed a century later by Pliny the Elder; who refers to Môn in his Natural History. Cornelius Tacitus quite clearly recounts the great battle between the Romans and the Druids of Môn in 60 AD under the leadership of Suetonius Paulinus. The Greek scholar Ptolemy working from Alexandria in Egypt during the second century designates the Island under her Latinised name Môna in his “Guide to Geography”.
Perhaps most significantly is the precise nature and meaning of the word Môn; from which the Latinised Môna was derived. According to leading scholars at the University of Wales the name represents a relic toponym in Wales which is pre-Celtic in origin and of considerable antiquity; and perhaps the oldest recorded place name in Britain.
Môn’s association with the Druids and Druidism, which continues to this day, suggests a deeper magic to the island, a magic which may well hide within the name itself. It has been suggested that the name Môn refers to a mother Goddess of the same calibre as Modron mother of Mabon; as Ann Benwell of the Anglesey Antiquarian Society presents in her paper “The meaning of Môn”. Giraldus Cambrensis writing in 1188 recorded the phrase Môn mam Kembre, familiar today as Môn Mother of Wales, owing to the fertility of the island and her pseudonym as the bread basket of Wales. Later local lore developed the additional phrase “Grandmother of the world”, perhaps in relation to the vast influence of her Priests throughout the Neolithic and Iron Age periods.
Môn’s aura of magic, authority and power presented a problem for the incoming Romans, who quickly realised that the Druidic stronghold at Môn would have to be destroyed. Tacitus’ description of the ensuing battle further reinforces the idea of the divine, sacred feminine and her association with the island, in the fact that the front line of battle was comprised of women. Described as ferocious, black clad furies and brandishing flaming torches; it was recorded that the Roman army were struck by a great fear at the very sight of the female force. Local lore has long since proclaimed the mighty power and prowess of the Celtic/Druidic Priestess caste, which akin to the might of Boudicca had no fear of battle, and would gladly die in defence of their precious island. In Celtic society women and men would fight as equals, but it seems apparent that on Môn the women actively chose to be the first line of defence perhaps expressing Môn’s reputation as an island of the Goddess.
The plethora of ancient Celtic tales further associates the island of Môn, not only with Druids and magicians, but with their Gods. The profoundly illuminating tales of the Mabinogi tell the story of Branwen, one of the most famous Goddesses of the island and her tale of treachery, brutality, sadness and heartache and the need to acknowledge the essentialness of the shadow side. Her brother Bran, high king of the island of the Mighty, held court in the city of Aberffraw, now a sleepy, sea-side village. To this day the starlings whom Branwen befriended continue to gather in their thousands to roost at the banks of the River Alaw where she died. It is said that they flock and cry in praise of the Goddess they love so much.
Beyond the tales of Druids and Gods sit a myriad of ancient monuments, in fact Môn has one of the largest concentrations of sacred sites per square mile than any other part of Britain. They may not be to the scale of Stonehenge or Avebury, but what they lack in stature they make up for in atmosphere. The magnificent burial chamber and henge at Bryn Celli Ddu (Hill of the black grove) invites the traveller into the depths of the otherworld, to observe the passing of Venus as she shines her light into the inner sanctum, to realign the ancient lunar calendar. The summer solstice lights the long corridor into the mound, whilst the winter solstice shines a dagger upon the magnificent phallus standing free in the womb of the chamber.
No less than 6 ancient hill forts decorate the coastal regions of the island with such romantic names as “Arthur’s Table”, whilst chambered cairns, ancient villages and standing stones tickle the imagination and tease the spirit. Off the beaten track the seeker will find ancient sites almost forgotten by modern man, monuments such as Din Dryfol in the parish of Soar, a mere mile from my home; sings the songs of the mighty, its enormous standing stones piercing the silence with a hum of energy. The crumbled cairn here invites you to sleep in soft earth and dream the dreams of the dead, of the ancestors whose wisdom and magic inspire the living.
The islands sacred monuments however are only a facet, an expression of the sacredness of Môn, for she is also representative of the Order’s primary mother Goddess. She provides us with abundance and fruition, comfort and security; she is the keeper of magic and wonder, awe and inspiration. Those who travel here agree that although the plethora of monuments instils a sense of timelessness, the actual wonder is the island herself. She is a place made sacred by the passing of time and the magic of the people. This presence is very apparent at the ancient site of Llyn Cerrig Bach (Lake of the small stones); where in 1945 the largest deposit of ritualistic offerings from the age of the Druids was discovered. Cauldrons, chariots, swords, jewellery, precious items created for the gods, yet today all that remains is a small, almost insignificant lake. Yet the power and awe one feels here; causes the knee to bend in honour of the spirits of this place, lips to tremble in praise of the Goddess, heart strings are plucked evoking a familiar music from the depth of the soul.
The island of Môn (Anglesey) is reached by 2 land bridges from Mainland Wales. Excellent, direct, high-speed train services link the island with London and all UK destinations. Stena Line and Irish Ferries operate from Dublin Bay to Môn. Cardiff International Airport has 2 direct services to the island every weekday. The North Wales Expressway offers an efficient route for drivers.