Thursday 27 December 2012

Sobek and the Nile Crocodiles

I went to Egypt with a mission to help heal the crocodiles of the Nile. Alphedia had given me a crystal which I was to place on the altar of Sobek, the crocodile god and personification of the river Nile. The crystal was to be energised there first and then placed into the river.

Luckily for me the Egyptian spiritual tour I was taking with Barbara Meiklejohn-Free took in the temple of Kom Ombo which has a shrine dedicated to Sobek, so when I finally arrived at the temple it was with a sense of anticipation.

Immediately I could see images of the crocodile god and his impassive reptilian countenance everywhere.

Before entering the temple we were first taken to the crocodile pit and Nilometer. A Nilometer is a shaft that was used in the past for measuring the depth of the Nile during the annual floods. Supposedly the shaft here once also contained the temple's sacred crocodiles.

As I approached the shaft I felt a chill, I had dreamt about this place! A deep hole with a low wall and people standing all around it, just as my tour group were doing now! Only in my dream the pit was hidden in a cavern and was bottomless, a black hole of despair! As I approached the shaft and peered in my hairs stood on end as I could see deeper and deeper into the well, and then felt a sense of mild relief as I finally spied the bottom far below. Still, I felt a sense of dread when I stood too near to this place!

At last it was time to enter the temple and visit its twin altars. One altar was dedicated to Sobek the crocodile god while the other one was dedicated the falcon-headed god Horus. We were told to enter right-hand doorway which led to Sobek's altar, then to proceed around the altar of Horus before exiting Horus's temple through the left-hand doorway.

As I was tuning in to the energies and preparing myself for my task I found myself lagging slightly behind the rest of the group. When I reached the altar I took out the crystal and placed it on the large black slab of rock which was the altar stone. I called upon the god Sobek to return to this Earthly plane and told him that his energy was needed here again. I placed my hand on the stone and closed my eyes.

After a short while I had a vision of a huge lizard-like creature standing to my right. He was almost as tall as the temple columns and carried in his right hand a long narrow staff which appeared to be made of some kind of dark metal. He pointed the staff at my crystal and filled it with his energy, a white light coming from the centre of his being, down the staff and into my crystal. The crystal started to glow with a blinding white light, and then down this beam of light I could see thousands of tiny creatures like tadpoles entering the crystal. I knew that they were tiny crocodile spirits, the sperm of Sobek the crocodile god.

I opened my eyes and found myself alone, the rest of my group having already moved on. I retrieved my crystal and then heard a "Pssst!" A local guy dressed in traditional galabeya was calling me over. I followed him and without saying a word he led me to a locked door and opened it with his key! He led me inside a darkened chamber that was completely covered in ancient carvings, and then he indicated the centre of the far wall which was carved with a relief of the god Sobek! I did not stop the question this mystical occurrence and with a sense of awe just knew that I just had to trust this guy and follow his instructions. He placed the palms of his hands against the carving of the god and then knelt down as if praying, indicating that I should do the same. I copied him and he then left the chamber, leaving me there alone.

As I stood there with my palms against his image I felt the power of the crocodile god enter me, filling me with his strength. I saw an image of the Aswan Dam and knew that it was near there that I must place the energised crystal.

My guide then led me to another locked chamber and indicated an Egyptian god holding a stethoscope which he indicated that I should place my heart against. 

I did so and felt my heart receiving the energy and power of the crocodile god, a healing to give me the strength that I needed to complete my tasks here on Earth.

I then thanked my mystical and silent guide and proceeded to the altar of Horus to catch up with the rest of my group.


The next day we all got up super-early for the long drive to Abu Simbel, high above the Aswan Dam by Lake Nasser.

The 550 km long Lake Nasser, now one of the world's largest man-made lakes, was created when the Aswan Dam was completed in 1970. 

The giant ancient-Egyptian statues and temples of Abu Simbel had to be moved 65 meters higher and 200 meters back from the river, in one of the greatest challenges of archaeological engineering in history.

Although the construction of the dam has been great for the Egyptian people so far, eliminating devastating floods and droughts, and generating huge amounts of hydro-electric power, it has been terrible for Egypt's crocodiles. The Nile crocodile still inhabits large portions of Africa and in ancient times it's range extended all the way down the Nile to the Mediterranean Sea. The ancient Egyptians revered the crocodile as the personification of the Nile itself and worshipped these ancient creatures in the form of the crocodile-headed god Sobek, to whom they built numerous temples. Sacred crocodiles were kept in these temples and when they died they were mummified and placed in sarcofagi with grave goods as befitted their high status. But now, due to the Aswan Dam and pressure from the growing human population, the crocodile is no longer seen North of the dam.

When I arrived at Abu Simbel I sought guidance if I should place my crystal there but was told emphatically no! The crystal must be placed near the dam!

After our brief visit to Abu Simbel we then started the long bus journey back to Aswan in the late morning and I was wondering how I was going to get near the dam to place my crystal. It was then that another one of those strange synchronicities occurred. Our guide suddenly announced that he was arranging a special optional excursion this afternoon to a Nubian village just below the Aswan Dam, not only that but these Nubians kept live crocodiles in their houses for good luck which they caught in lake Nasser! Naturally I signed up for the tour immediately!

After returning to Aswan those of us that signed up for the tour boarded the tour boat and headed up the Nile towards the Aswan Dam, passing by traditional wooden feluccas plying the waters

and camel trains following desert trails beside the Nile.

An hour or so later, as we approached the Nubian village I saw a large dark shape move in the water. It looked like the back of a seal or a small whale, but nothing like that should be living in the Nile! I took it as a sign from the river god and tuned in. "This is the place!" I heard. I unwrapped the crystal from its silk and carefully placed it into the water. 

The crystal glowed with the energy of Sobek and as it reached the bottom of the Nile I saw a huge image of the crocodile god rise up out of the water. He was angry and swept through the water towards the dam, ripping at it and smashing it. The dam must be destroyed! It was blocking his power, the power of the Nile, the power of the river god!

Although the dam has had some short term benefits in the long term it is spelling disaster for those living downstream. The floods no longer carry the nutrient rich silt which formed the basis of ancient Egyptian agriculture and wealth, modern Egyptians must instead rely upon artificial fertilisers produced by petro-chemical companies. The rich Nile Delta is also now becoming stagnant, a breeding ground for mosquitoes and disease. Lake Nasser is slowly filling up with this silt which once formed the Nile Delta, and when it does so the dam will become useless.

The Nubian people living near Aswan were resettled there after most of their homeland was flooded following the construction of the Aswan Dam. The village that we were heading to was one of these resettlement villages, now surviving from tourism as much as anything else, with a small crocodile museum housing mummified crocodiles.

We were led to a traditional Nubian house where we were served flat-bread with strong Nubian cheeses and black honey (molasses). 

An enclosure in the courtyard housed three sad-looking crocodiles, held in captivity since they were babies.

While a further cage held baby crocodiles which tourists could pick up to be photographed with.

The crocodiles here were crying for help, wanting only to be released from captivity and free to swim in the Nile again, but what could I do? I'm not capable of removing the Aswan Dam or even of releasing these crocodiles, but I can only hope that one day crocodile energy will return to the river Nile somehow, nature will once again find its balance, and the crocodile god Sobek will be appeased.

Rob Wildwood (Aurvandil) has now released a book containing hundreds of his own stunning full colour photos of many of the magical places he has visited in his travels. The images capture the magic and mystery of each place and are enhanced by snippets of local folklore that tempt deeper investigation. Every site listed has full directions and map grid references that can be checked online, so join Rob Wildwood as you discover Britain's magical places at or

Sunday 3 June 2012

Shannon Pot and the hunt for the Salmon of Knowledge

I was becoming intrigued by the Celtic tales of magical fish living in holy wells. My experience at the Pigeon Hole near Cong, on the border between County Galway and County Mayo in Ireland had only served to increase my fascination. There I had meditated and when I opened my eyes had actually seen the magic trout swimming in the water before me (see The Pigeon Hole and the Magic Trout )

My investigations led me deeper and deeper in Celtic mythology until inevitably I came across the most famous of all Celtic fish legends, the tale of the Salmon of Knowledge, said to live in a pool overhung by nine hazel trees who's nuts carried the source of all wisdom and poetry.

The stories start in mythological times when the fairy folk ruled Ireland, the Tuatha De Danann:

"And they had a well below the sea where the nine hazels of wisdom were growing; that is, the hazels of inspiration and of the knowledge of poetry. And their leaves and their blossoms would break out in the same hour, and would fall on the well in a shower that raised a purple wave. And then the five salmon that were waiting there would eat the nuts, and their colour would come out in the red spots of their skin, and any person that would eat one of those salmon would know all wisdom and all poetry. And there were seven streams of wisdom that sprang from that well and turned back to it again; and the people of many arts have all drank from that well."

Later in the mythological cycle we get the story of the hero Finn mac Cumhal:

"And then he said farewell to Crimall, and went on to learn poetry from Finegas, a poet that was living at the Boinn, for the poets thought it was always on the brink of water poetry was revealed to them. And he did not give him his own name, but he took the name of Deimne. Seven years, now, Finegas had stopped at the Boinn, watching the salmon, for it was in the prophecy that he would eat the salmon of knowledge that would come there, and that he would have all knowledge after. And when at the last the salmon of knowledge came, he brought it to where Finn was, and bade him to roast it, but he bade him not to eat any of it. And when Finn brought him the salmon after a while he said: "Did you eat any of it at all, boy?" "I did not," said Finn; "but I burned my thumb putting down a blister that rose on the skin, and after that, I put my thumb in my mouth." "What is your name, boy?" said Finegas. "Deimne," said he. "It is not, but it is Finn your name is, and it is to you and not to myself the salmon was given in the prophecy." With that he gave Finn the whole of the salmon, and from that time Finn had the knowledge that came from the nuts of the nine hazels of wisdom that grow beside the well that is below the sea."

And then we get this story which explains how the River Boyne was formed:

"Boand wife of Nechtán son of Labraid, went to the secret well which was in the green of Síd Nechtáin.  Now this was a magical well known only to the Sidhe and protected by Nechtán, Flesc, Lám and Luam the four cup-bearers and only they could withstand the powers of the well and return whole of limb.  For it was the source of all knowledge and inspiration.

Nine hazels grew over the well.  The purple hazels dropped their nuts into the fountain, and five salmon which were in the fountain severed them and sent their husks floating down the five streams.  These are the five streams of the senses through which knowledge is obtained.  And no one will have knowledge who drinks not a draught from out of the fountain itself and out of the streams.  The folk of many arts are those that drink them both.  These are the aois dána the poets who use inspiration.  This was the famous well in which the Salmon of Knowledge was spawned and swallowed the hazel nut of wisdom, and whom the bard Finegas finally caught but whose flesh was eaten by Fionn Mac Cumhaill.

Now Boand ignored all warnings and decided to see if she could test the power of the well because of her pride, declaring that it had no secret source which could shatter her form, and tempting fate she walked three times withershins (anti-clockwise) around the well.

At once a loud surging sound was heard which came from the navel of the earth and three waves rose out of the well, and one carried off her thigh, and one carried off her hand and the last carried off her eye.  Then thus disfigured, and fleeing her shame, she turned seaward, with the water roaring behind her until she reached the mouth of the Boyne ( Béal na Boinne) whereupon she was overcome by the force of the waves and was drowned, and thus was the end of Boand mother of Aengus the Young Son."

Nowadays the source of the River Boyne is said to be Trinity Well in the grounds of Newberry House, near Carbury in Country Kildare. Intrigued by the tales the next time I was in Ireland, in March 2012, I set off with my friend Leaf to go looking for this mysterious well.

Newberry House was not easy to find, and it was only by tracing the river back to its source on a map that eventually we were led to the right place. When we found the gates to the estate they were locked, we didn't fancy entering uninvited and wandering over the endless parkland randomly looking for a holy well so we opted instead to start where the stream crossed the road and simply to follow it upstream until we found its source.

We tramped through woodland past a ruined mill house before eventually coming to a large pond.

Had we found it already? Was this the source of the Boyne where the hazel trees grew? We traced the edge of the pond but found that there was an inlet, clearly we had further to go. As we set out across the open parkland following the stream we were harassed by a large herd of very frisky cattle, who charged back and forth in huge stampedes before lining up threateningly to face us.

We quickly made our way upstream, following the river for a few hundred yards until eventually it left the estate again. If there was a well on the estate then clearly we had missed it, so we instead decided to head into the village of Carbury to ask some of the locals if they knew where the well was.

Down the local pub they were all very helpful, telling us not to worry about entering and walking over the estate and directing us to the location of the well. It seems like we had walked right past it! No doubt distracted by the stampeding cattle!

We returned for a second attempt and this time our perseverance paid off! The well sat just beside the stream on the far side, near to a bridge. How did we miss it!

I climbed inside the small well house and sat there a while to meditate.

The interior was decked with flowers and small, white angelic statues. The air was light and fragrant like a garden and the water was cool and crystal clear, but there didn't seem to be any visible inflow or outflow of water.

I sat inside the well house and soaked up the pleasant atmosphere before energising a quartz crystal and dropping it into the well. I could see its translucent form slowly drifting to the bottom before settling there comfortably.

The local people would come here on Trinity Sunday to take water from the well as they did every year in June, taking on the new energy imparted to the water by my crystal.

However, as the source of the Boyne and the home of the Salmon of Wisdom it seemed an unlikely spot. Where were the nine hazelnut trees overhanging it? And where were the underground caves where the salmon was said to lurk? Perhaps the pool we had spotted earlier was a more likely spot after all? The only correlation we could find was nine hawthorns growing next to the well.

The locals celebrated this well as the source of the Boyne but I was unconvinced. Further investigation would be required...

Boand, who's actions, legend says, caused the River Boyne to spring forth, was the wife of Nechtain, one of the Tuatha De Danann, the fairy people. Near to trinity well is a large mound known as Sidhe Nechtain, or Nechtain's Fairy Mound, so we decided to go there next and investigate.

We returned to the village and continued on down a lane up towards an old ruined castle. We asked one of the locals about Nechtain's mound and he directed us towards a low hill which sat near the castle.

It did indeed look like a magical place, and despite the early season it was covered in trees displaying a white blossom. Walking up the far side of the mound we found a magical looking fairy portal.

Stepping through it we entered their realm and continued on up to the top of the knoll. On the way I picked thirteen primroses and left them at the top as an offering before standing there in meditation.

I saw Faery noble dressed in silver silks approaching me. It was Nechtain, a lord of the Tuatha De Danann. He was pale and silvery with light coloured hair and in his hands he carried a circlet that appeared to be made of pure platinum. He placed the circlet on my head and a feeling came over me that somehow this man was my father! Nechtain, father of Aurvandil? He told me to do what I had come here for, so I raised my crystal tipped wand above my head and drew in the white energy from the sky, down through my wand and my body, and down into the knoll, filling it with light and energy. I then connected this energy to other similar places, helping to complete the grid of energy that covered the entire land.

On the way back we met a boy who took us to his father's house. He showed us some old maps of the area but could give us no further information about Nechtain and the Salmon of Knowledge. Was this Nechtain connected with the Celtic water god Nechtan, and through him with saint Nechtan of St. Nechtan's Glen in Cornwall? I felt like I had got some important leads but that this quest was far from over. Unfortunately I now had to return home to England, but I would be back to find out more, I was sure of that.


Back home in England I did some research. It seemed that Nechtain is also called Nodens or Nudd, both known as Celtic gods of the sea. Nudd was of course the father of the faery king Gwyn ap Nudd, who I had met at Castell Dinas Bran in Wales ( see Castell Dinas Bran - Gwyn ap Nudd ). There was also a connection with Manannan mac Lir, as Lir is another name for the Celtic sea god.
Deeper investigations into the folklore concerning the Salmon of Knowledge revealed that the story is not only related to the River Boyne but also to the River Shannon! Immediately I searched for the source of the River Shannon and what I found amazed me!

The traditional source of the Shannon river has always been regarded as Shannon Pot, an almost perfectly circular hole, 16 metres across, which is filled with water which flows out from deep underground caverns. The hole is overhung by many trees and has an outflow forming a small stream, the source of the Shannon river. Surely this was the perfect place to find the Salmon of Knowledge! The underwater caverns were said to be dangerous and unexplored, the water murky and mysterious...

A similar tale is linked the formation of the Shannon river to the formation of the Boyne river and the goddess Boand. 

"According to legend, the Shannon is named after Sionnan, who was the granddaughter of Manannán mac Lir, the god of the sea. She came to this spot to eat the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, which was planted by the Druids. As she began to eat it, the waters of the pool sprang up and overwhelmed her. She was drawn down into the pool and its water began to flow over the land, forming the River Shannon."

I would have to wait a couple of months before I could return to Ireland, but when I did I was determined to go and pay a visit to Shannon pot.

A couple of months later I returned to Ireland, for the third time this year! I went with Leaf and a couple of other friends to visit Shannon Pot and soon found its mysterious waters, overhung with lush summer greenery. Closer investigation revealed that the trees around the pool were willow and hawthorn, not hazel, but who knows what the passage of time has done to this place or to the tales that are linked to it? Some tales say the trees were rowan trees, and not hazel, and that it is the red berries of the rowan which give the salmon its spots, but why not the red berries of hawthorn instead?

As we sat by the pool we saw the occasional splash of a fish on the dark surface of the water, so there was certainly something in there! I climbed down into the small stream that flows out of the pot and put on my snorkel, determined to have a swim to see what was in there.

The water was icy cold and biting my skin! But I eased myself in and took a swim over its mysterious and murky depths. Looking down all I could see were rays of sunlight piercing the dark depths of the water stained dark with tannin. It was absolutely freezing, so after passing over a couple of times without seeing anything more I decided to get out and dry off in the sun.

Having passed over the emerging flow of water I now felt like I had experienced its energy and so now would better be able to tune in to it. I sat on a bench nearby and using a shamanic drumbeat on my iPod to cut out all interfering sound I drifted off into a meditation.

I saw myself sinking down and down into the watery depths of the pot, a female guide by my side, some kind of water spirit. At the very bottom of the pot was a small cave where a large salmon swam suspended in the current, the Salmon of Knowledge! Beside the salmon lay a silver coloured ring which was set with a light blue translucent gemstone. I peered at the gemstone and it grew larger and larger, until it was bigger than I was. I entered the stone and inside was another water spirit, some kind of mermaid. I didn't understand what it meant but I realised then that if I was to get any answers to the mystery of the Salmon of Knowledge then I must ask the salmon himself. I spoke to him and asked him:

"What is the Salmon of Knowledge?"

He replied to me like a was an innocent and foolish child, asking something that was clear and obvious to all and which I must surely already know the answer to. He explained to me that the Salmon of Knowledge sat at the entrance to the Otherworld, the spirit world of forms from which all of creation grows. All knowledge comes from the spirit world, and must therefore pass through him to reach us.

Suddenly the answer was clear and obvious! In the spirit world was the source of all knowledge, the place from which all wisdom and inspiration comes. The salmon simply represented this. The connection between our material world and the Celtic underworld of spirit, which in folklore is always seen as being in a submerged subterranean realm. This is the reason why in Celtic culture springs and holy wells are so revered, they are the places where the underworld emerges into our world, and so form a connection between the two. A manifestation of the divine.

My quest for Salmon of Knowledge had reached its end. I had met the salmon and he had imparted to me his wisdom. All knowledge comes from the Otherworld, if it is wisdom you seek, then you will find it there.


A few days earlier I had been to visit the burial place of Amergin the Bard, the first of the Milesian Celts to set foot on Ireland. His burial place consisted of a low mound in a farmer's field, with a curious alignment of four standing stones at one end of it.

The words of the famous "Song of Amergin" came back to me and suddenly I understood their true meaning:

"I am a wind across the sea
I am a flood across the plain
I am the roar of the tides
I am a stag of seven tines
I am a dewdrop let fall by the sun
I am the fierceness of boars
I am a hawk, my nest on a cliff
I am a height of magical poetry
I am the most beautiful among flowers
I am the salmon of wisdom
Who but I is both the tree and the lightning that strikes it
Who but I is the dark secret of the dolmen not yet hewn
I am the queen of every hive
I am the fire on every hill
I am the shield over every head
I am the spear of battle
I am the ninth wave of eternal return
I am the grave of every vain hope
Who but I knows the path of the sun or the periods of the moon"

The song is a riddle about the very force of creation, that mysterious force from the Otherworld that permeates every single aspect of our world and brings it into manifestation, the great mystery itself.


Rob Wildwood (Aurvandil) has now released a book containing hundreds of his own stunning full colour photos of many of the magical places he has visited in his travels. The images capture the magic and mystery of each place and are enhanced by extracts of local folklore that reveal the magical lore of each place and tempt deeper investigation. Every site listed has full directions and map grid references that can be checked online, so join Rob Wildwood as you discover Britain's magical places at

Sunday 26 February 2012

The Pigeon Hole and the Magic Trout

There are many tales from Celtic legend about sacred trout or salmon, and they are often associated with holy wells and springs. I wasn't sure if any of these places from legend still existed but I was determined to track down one of these wells, even if the sacred fish were no longer to be seen there.

A little research led to me to a cave in Ireland called Poll na gColum, which in English mean "The Pigeon Hole". It is accessed by a flight of rocky steps that lead directly down through a fissure in the earth into a large cavern through which flows a small underground stream.

The legend of the "fairy trout" associated with this cave tells of a pair of young lovers who were engaged to be married, when one night the man was ambushed and killed, and his body thrown into the nearby lake. Soon afterwards an unusual trout was seen in the waters of the Pigeon Hole. The young maiden was stricken with grief for her lost love but soon she too mysteriously disappeared. Not long after that a another mysterious trout was also seen in the cave, but this time it was pure white. People said that the fairies had united the lovers in the water and ever since that day these magic trout had been held in reverence by the locals as sacred fish.

Many years later a outsider went fishing in the cave and caught the white trout. He placed it on his gridiron and immediately the trout transformed into a beautiful young woman who begged to be allowed back into the water. The stranger obliged her, but ever since that day when the white trout was seen it had the strange markings of a gridiron on its sides.

I had no idea how I was going to find this well, the only information I had to go on was that it lay "between Loch Mask and Loch Corrib" to the west of the village of Cong, so on my recent visit to Ireland I took a detour from Galway to Cong to see what I could find.

Cong was a beautiful little stone-built village with a broad shallow river running right though it. I went into the local store to ask about the Pigeon Hole. The girl at the counter had no idea what I was talking about. I was starting to worry that I might just be chasing legends! She called over an older lady who immediately started giving me vague sounding directions in a broad Irish accent. "Just out o' de village to yer right, up to de crossroads wi' de boats and it's just along dere on yer right!"

It seemed too easy so I got her to clarify it a bit. Slightly more confident I then set off up the road, half expecting to end up in the middle of nowhere without a clue where to go next! I drove across the river to the right of the shop, and then continued quite a long way until I came to a crossroads where I was surprised to see a boatyard! I followed the small lane to the right until I came to a layby with a footpath leading away into woods which glistened in the damp drizzly air.

Following the footpath through the trees everything seemed glow magically green, from the bright green moss to the wet green ferns. I could hear the birds singing in the trees, but all else was silence until I approached small clearing ahead. Through the rocks scattered around there I could hear a vague rushing sound and I knew that somewhere near here must lie the entrance to the fabled cave!

It turned out that the cave was not difficult to find. In the rocks directly ahead of me a large fissure appeared in the ground, and down the centre of the fissure a flight of rough stone steps lead down into the bowels of the earth.

The rushing sound bellowed forth from this crack in the earth, betraying the presence of the river far below. The steps were steep and slippery, but luckily a handrail had been provided for visitors. I knew that in times gone by washer women used to descend these steps to do their laundry, though why they would choose such a dark subterranean location for their ablutions is hard to say.

At the bottom of the stairs the fissure opened out into a large cavern through which ran a fast flowing stream of water.

I climbed down and then gazed into the water, shining my torch around, but could see no life in there at all. To my left the stream emerged from under a wall of rock, while to my right the stream flowed down along the far wall of the cavern until it disappeared into the darkness at the far end of the cave.

At some point in the past there had been a cave-in and now the whole right side of the cave was half filled by a jumble of boulders, but undeterred I was determined to explore those far recesses. I gingerly crept and crawled over the slippery rocks with only my small hand torch to guide my way through the blackness. Several times I could see the stream flowing under the rocks beneath me but eventually I stumbled my way to the far end of the cavern where the stream narrowed and flowed out of the cave to continue on its subterranean journey before it emerged again into the river at Cong.

I could go no further that way but instead climbed upwards through the jumble of boulders to explore some of the far corners of the cave. When I had got almost as far as it was possible to go from the entrance I noticed my torch alighting upon some small black balls suspended from the ceiling. It didn't take me long to work out what they were, bats!

I crept as close to them as I could, half expecting at any moment that they would burst to life and start flapping all around my head, sending me into a spin, but luckily that never happened, the bats didn't seem to take any notice of my presence despite shining my torch on them from only inches away.

Satisfied with my discovery I headed back over the rocks to the base of the steps. I put my bag down and sat on a rock, gazing into the flowing stream. I noticed that the water ahead of me seemed to well up, like there was an underwater spring there. Perhaps that's what made this place a holy well?

I gazed into the water some more and then closed my eyes...

I had a vision of the white trout swimming against the current. Then from behind me to my left a man stepped into the chamber. He was an Irish king from ancient times, wearing a short robe of plaid with a small golden crown holding down his neck length hair. He carried before him, reverently it seemed, a richly decorated equal-armed golden cross like some ancient reliquary. He passed by me and stepped down into the water, the water covering first his bare legs, and then his robes until he was completely submerged. He continued down down underwater, still holding the cross before him until he stood on the very bottom of the river. There he lay down with the cross over his chest and slowly his corpse dissolved away into the current until only the golden cross remained and fish swam from his bones. All the while the white trout looked on.

The next thing I could see were shades emerging from the two ends of the cavern, at the outflow and inflow of the stream. These dusty ancient ghosts looked like chieftains and heroes from times long gone. They gathered around the golden cross and formed a circle of around two dozen souls, all gazing inwards towards the ground before them.

At this point the vision ended and slowly I opened my eyes and gazed upon the dark brown pattern of the stream flowing before me. But something wasn't right. The stream shouldn't be flowing like that. There was something moving in there! As my eyes grew accustomed to the waking world again I slowly realised that I was gazing at a fish, a trout! Was I still dreaming? No, there was not one trout, there were two! One was light and speckly, while the other smaller one was pure black.

I was sure that these were magic trout, I had been blessed by their appearance!

I was not tempted to try and photograph them, I knew that their presence was meant just for me, and that such elusive and magical fish could not be photographed in any case. As I gazed at them, wondering what they had come to communicate to me, I suddenly knew what I had to do. I reached into my bag a withdrew my wand and a crystal. I summoned the white light and magical healing energy and then planted my wand into the stream before me. I held the crystal in my hand and filled it with energy and intention and then cast it into the water.

I saw the crystal tumble down and down into the depths of the stream and then alight upon the very centre of the golden cross. It fixed itself there firmly and filled the cross with its energy. The cross slowly started to rotate and sent out a burst of pure white light in all directions. The white light filled the ghosts and ancient heroes, releasing them and transforming them into beings of light, no longer burdened with the weight of their past. As the cross span it started to rise, higher and higher, it transformed into a Brigid's cross, like a slowly spinning Catherine wheel. Higher and higher it climbed until its image was superimposed upon the face of the sun. The cross and the sun became one. The cross was the sun.

Well what did that all mean? I didn't even try to analyse it, I just accepted it, and accepted that its meaning would be revealed to me in due time. I had come to this cave like a tourist, with no expectations at all, I didn't even expect to see any fish! But somehow I was meant to be there, and while I was there everything flowed just as it should, without any preconceptions or imposition of my own will upon the situation. I realised that I had been trying too hard recently, and that this had caused me to become burned out until I really had started losing my way and not knowing where to turn next. But somehow I knew that I had to come to Ireland, and I knew that I had to look for magic fish there!


Rob Wildwood (Aurvandil) has now released a book containing hundreds of his own stunning full colour photos of many of the magical places he has visited in his travels. The images capture the magic and mystery of each place and are enhanced by extracts of local folklore that reveal the magical lore of each place and tempt deeper investigation. Every site listed has full directions and map grid references that can be checked online, so join Rob Wildwood as you discover Britain's magical places at