In the old faery lore of Wessex, Brigid is the beautiful woman sleeping and dreaming under the green mantle of the Hollow Hills where she is protected by a briar rose thorn thicket, and she will only awaken when the Three Utterances — man, animal and faery — come together in Harmony and Love to create the Fourth Utterance.
I love the use of the word ‘utterance’ – bringing to mind the Word of the gospel of St John or Aum, the primordial vibration of the Vedas or the God Particle as it’s known to physicists – in other words, the sound resonating at the heart of every atom. When you understand this concept, you realise that to insist upon a division between material nature and spirituality is to create a false dichotomy. That our ancient forefathers knew this is clear from the fact they put so much into effort into creating such extraordinary sacred sites. To me, the three utterances are the three worlds of the shaman.
We first hear about Brigid in the faerytale of the Sleeping Beauty, albeit that the Walt Disney version harks back to the ancient Greeks by naming her Aurora, after their goddess of the dawn. She is helped by the three good fairies who are found in the Old Norse oral tradition in which we meet the three Norns of the spinning wheel of destiny. When the young princess pricks her finger on the spinning wheel, it is a metaphor for menstruation or coming of age in a rite of passage story which is rare in that the hero is a heroine.
The three Norns were known to the Greeks as three Fates or Furies. They are also probably the three witches of Macbeth, although that trio were badly bent out of their original shapes. In the Old Norse tradition, these three women were said to govern the three wells of the Wyrd, which were the Scandinavian equivalent of the Celtic three cauldrons. (There is much more about the philosophical system of the three cauldrons in my book, Stories in the Stars #ad.)
The Wyrd is a kind of matrix or web of destiny that is spun and woven by the Norns, but which is under the ultimate control of Orlog, the same omnipotent, omnipresent and eternal law of the universe that the mages of Alexandria called the hierarchy.
The Wyrd is made up of a sweet, nectarous liquid that flows down through the three wells situated on a Tree of Life called Ygdrassil, which is an ash tree, and on which are found the three worlds (or utterances) of the shaman.
The well at the top of the tree in Asgard, or the Upper World. It is overseen by an old crone Norn who is named Urd, and she governs the past. The Wyrd flows down from Urd’s well until it reaches the well of the mother Norn, who is named Verdandi. Verdandi rules the present day in the middle world of Midgard. So if our cup tastes bitter, the storytellers would say, it is because the streams of the Wyrd that reached Midgard from Urd’s well in the past at Asgard were already polluted by the wrong actions of the past.
After leaving Verdandi in the Middle World, the river of the Wyrd continues down the trunk of the ash until it reaches the well of the maiden Norn called Skuld in the Underworld or Niflehim. Skuld rules the future, and that part of the Wyrd will only taste clean and delicious after the listener has worked with Verdandi in the Middle World of the present day in order to clean up the pollution of the past that came down from the well in Asgard, in the Upper World, which is ruled by Urd.
The Ancestors live in the Underworld where Skuld’s well is situated, and she can only send fresh, clean Wyrd up to Urd in the Upper World at the top of the tree – a metaphor for the cycle of new life – if the liquid she receives from Verdandi’s present-day well in the Middle World is unpolluted and clear.
In Sleeping Beauty, the Princess pricks her finger on the spindle of the spinning wheel (note the poetic resonance between the words “spindle” and “spinster”) and thus is sent to sleep, only to be awakened by her true love the Prince who has to thrust and carve his way, with his magical sword, through a thick and tangled forest of briar rose thorn bushes to awaken her with a kiss.
Her awakening has great resonance with that of the Alexandrian hero who, instead of a spinning wheel, traverses the rim of zodiac wheel to meet his challenges that will ultimately result in redeeming the Rivers of Blood or DNA of the Ancestors.
Thus, the ‘sleep of a hundred years’ of the whole royal court is a metaphor for the human being who is born into a state of unawareness of the reason for their human life, making them “children” or “adolescents” on the path on the initiate, until they awaken.
The three faeries, or Norns, are also an allegorical for the three stages of the alchemical process – nigredo, albedo and rubedo – which all of Nature goes through to recreate itself. The kiss of the Prince symbolises the final stage of the Marriage of the Sun and the Moon, in which we are kissed awake to the realisation of our true selves. That enlightenment can only come when we recognise that our consciousness ranges across an inner landscape of three utterances or Worlds – and in that way, all three are brought together.
So that is the deeper meaning of the story about the Dreamer in the Land who, in our British tradition, is Brigit the Bright One.
This article is an extract from my book Stories in the Summerlands: A pilgrimage into esoteric Avalon, which you can get on Amazon in the UK here and Amazon in the US here. #ad
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