The Marsh Tales come to us from the ancient marshes, from the mists of time before history, as a diverse collection of individual folk tales. Taken individually, they are simple stories of the people of the marshes. Collected, they form a body of myth that underlies the realm of Affalon: the spiritual and ethical back-story, if you will, of that timeless tale for the ages, The Apple and the Thorn. There the Tales are first mentioned by Vivian, then Lady of Affalon. The first recorded Marsh Tale is the oldest of Tales, Morla’s Belly, told by Vivian to Eosaidh of Cornualle (Joseph of Arimathea) as they visit the ancient hill bearing that name in chapter twelve, during the second Roman invasion of Britain in what we now call the year 43 of the Common Era.
The tales are first collected in their entirety a generation later, as they are taught by Fianna, priestess of Affalon, to a Dubh-bunadh healer in the Silure hill fort capital of Llan y gelli. The record of this telling was first published as the novel Marsh Tales and Other Wonders, now extant as Tales of Avalon.
In this current volume the thirteen Marsh Tales are removed from the context of narrative story and presented as a collection in their own right, the better to experience them as they were originally told, as a collection of the formative myths of Affalon. The spiritual and ethical lessons of the Tales thus become once again a focus for reflection and meditation, as they were originally intended to be.
(These Tales are, of course, the original work of the present author, based upon descriptions of fairies in Welsh literature. But they are more than fiction, more than flight of fancy, for they are in their own way the bearers of deep wisdom.)
How to Study the Tales
The Marsh Tales are best experienced orally, around the hearth or camp fire, and some contemporary readers may choose to do so with a partner or group. In any case, it is best to approach the collected Tales slowly and as a body of tradition, as stories to be experienced, not studied. Once this is done, this book offers a method for intentional reflection in the form of weekly and daily meditation throughout the cycle of the year.
The thirteen Tales fit well into the year’s four quarters, presented in this book as the natural seasons of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. A systematic reading will take the reader through one Tale per week, for each of the thirteen weeks in a season, followed each day by a reflection upon the daily question for meditation.
Searching for Answers
Answers to some of the questions will seem easy to discern; may seem too easy, but that is deceptive. Others will be more difficult, and will take years of seeking. Some may require many readings of the Tales to find understanding. The following pages offer a suggested framework for daily meditation in each season of the year. This study will yield a deeper understanding for reading, or revisiting, the earlier works, The Apple and the Thorn, and Tales of Avalon.
About the Author
Walter William Melnyk was a priest in The Episcopal Church in the United States from 1982 until 2005, and a walker between the worlds of Anglican Christianity and Celtic Spirituality. His part in creating The Apple and The Thorn emerges from his own journey through the interweaving of traditions. Melnyk graduated from Washington & Lee University in 1969 with a BA in journalism. In 1981 he graduated from the University of the South with a Master of Divinity degree. He was ordained in 1982. Over the ministry career that followed, he served churches in South Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania. He explored with growing interest the connections between early Celtic Christianity and pre-Christian Celtic Druidry, maintaining a passion for finding common ground between those traditions. His teaching in The Episcopal Church was grounded in the Celtic tradition, from which so much of Anglicanism has emerged. In July of 2003 Melnyk led a ritual at Stonehenge for Christians and Druids seeking interfaith understanding. That ritual was attended by Emma Restall Orr, head of The Druid Network and former joint Chief of the British Druid Order. In mid-2004 the two agreed to collaborate on a novel about the meeting of Druid and Christian spiritualities in the persons of the Lady of Avalon and Joseph of Arimathea in what is present day Glastonbury. Melnyk’s second novel, Tales of Avalon, is a sequel. Melnyk left the active Episcopal ministry in 2005. He retired in 2007. In 2010 he joined the Progressive Christian Alliance, and formed the Celtic Church of Saint Brendan of the Ninth Wave (www.ninthwavechurch.com). He is a member of the Druid Network, and the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. He has been happily married for over twenty-five years, with three children and (so far) five grandchildren. He lives in an old farmhouse in Pennsylvania, with his wife and a little black schnoodle. Books The Apple and the Thorn (with Emmas Restall Orr, Thoth Publications, 2007) Tales of Avalon (Createspace 2010) (Originally published in 2009 as Marsh Tales and Other Wonders) Coming in 2012: The Far Isles, third novel in the series of Tales of Avalon The Promise of all Living, poems of Nature and Spirit (Createspace, 2009) The Beauty and Glory of the Day, a Masonic Devotional (Createspace, 2009) Ukraina: Tales of a Beloved Land, poems from Ukraine (Createspace 2010, with James Stanley Melnyk)