Manawydan’s Glass Door – Water Colour by David Jones

Weldy racco … y drws ny dylywn ni y agori  
Look there … the door we should not open

(Spoken by Manawydan as the Company arrive in Gwales with the head of Bran in the second branch of the medieval Welsh  Mabinogi tales.)



He has lingered at the doors of perception for so long I could not imagine him not being there. But never forthright, never an intrusive presence, sometimes barely a presence at all, as if he said:

“You wanted me for a god but I am not a god for you now … though I am here for you, for counsel should you want to listen – keeping the door that you might not open, but when you do open it telling you what I have to tell about the path that opens through it should you choose to listen, and take me for a companion, walking with you on that path. I am patient and will wait for days, weeks, months, years … longer if it is necessary, for the right time and until then I will be at the threshold watching from beneath my hood of shadow, like the shadow of trees in the corner of a field where the hidden path leads into the wood.

So you ask – or dare not ask – why I did not walk with Pryderi and Rhiannon when the door opened for them? When the Divine Son is snatched away and the Divine Mother follows as she did not follow before, then though I offer counsel which would be wise for you, for them, who are beyond counsel, I could only watch, and wait, and bide my time for action, to bring them back into the world, and bring the world back to its right shaping.

But for you … for you too I wait and will speak the words you need to hear when you need to hear them. The door is not locked; you have already seen through it. You know what is to be found there and that there is a task to fulfil when you walk that path.

But for now, learn patience. Do not call before the appointed time, do not bid me speak before I have something to tell you. But know that I am here for you, acknowledge me and I will hold my counsel and reveal to you its hidden depths: Standing aside from the busy-ness of the world to better see the way through and tell it in quiet words for those who listen.

This for you and for all of those.”


When I was taught the art of focused meditation I always had a commentary, a reflection, on what I reported. So here I provide my own. Clearly this meditation results from many years of passive reflection on what it contains. Clearly too it contains things gained from study, from reading, from explorations of Brythonic lore, and so is not without some cultural influence. But it is not consciously shaped from these studies so much as emanating from having internalised them. Like the poet who has learned the verse forms and finds them providing a shape for the shapeless inspiration that is breathed through the breath of words.

So I knew that Manawydan was held to be ‘oet guis y cusil’ (profound of counsel). So I knew that he identified the door in Gwales that must remain shut for eighty years before the Company of the Head must leave their sojourn in that place and take the head of Bran to the White Mount and bury it there; … that he had refrained from claiming the lordship over Britain which had been usurped but retreated to Dyfed to marry the now widowed Rhiannon and ‘there was no woman more beautiful than she’; … that he lived simply but outwitted the Otherworld adversaries that had cast a spell over Dyfed and brought back Pryderi and Rhiannon from Annwn to live among us once again. All these things and more I ‘knew’ in the way that I knew how to breathe rather than as dry academic knowledge.

But more – I have perceived Manawydan on the edge of my meditations, my reflections, my perceptions of the Otherworld, the Gods, the deep presences of deity. And he has stayed there, biding his time quite apart from any cultural conception of him as a mythological figure, a cultural construct or a willed identity. So now as his hood is drawn back to reveal … what? I can only report his words as they came to me and, as he requests, acknowledge him as he has appeared to me.


A note on the painting by David Jones.
The reproduction doesn’t do it justice. The original water colour paints have a luminosity that is almost transparent so that the outside and the inside of the room seem to flow into each other. The glass door is a boundary between the two, but one that allows the scene outside to be an extension of the space inside and the carpet similarly seems to flow out of the room. The two worlds are one. Yet they remain apart.