For me, story and Spirit of Place are inextricably linked.
When we combine Spirit of Place with story, you don’t just get a history lesson or a stunning view, you get an experience. And often in the telling or listening to a story we see aspects of our selves, things resonate with us creating a journey through our own inner landscape as well as our outer world.
There are the supposedly mythological stories from the world of faery and nature like the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach lake. There are real life stories from suffragettes, famous war poets, persecuted catholic priests, eccentric artists and wealthy stockbrokers .The list goes on and on, from the 6th century to modern day, characters abide in our landscape and sometimes we are just too busy to sense their presence.
LLyn y Fan Fach lake near LLandeusant in Carmarthenshire has a wonderful Spirit of Place, yet many come merely to climb the mountains, and they are untouched by the history beneath their feet. As you walk up to the lake, with the stream and little waterfalls, surrounded by mountains, you cannot fail to be impressed, by one of the wildest areas in the Brecon Beacons National Park. It is magnificent. Yet the spirit of place at LLyn y Fan Fach varies with the season and the weather.
If it is sunny, everything is light and bubbly with a sense of spring and airiness. This is a Spirit of Place that fits with the faery people who are said to live both above and below the lake.
If it is stormy or raining, the mountains become oppressive, dark and foreboding. The wind blows and waves emerge scudding across the seemingly dense and uninviting waters. It is eerie with a heavy mystic presence and we shiver as we feel the wrath of the Lady of the Lake.
If there has been drought, the lake looks sparse exposing things that you have never seen before. You disbelieve its depth and the fae creatures that live in its deepest parts. On the other hand, if the lake is full, brimming with movement, you look into it and believe anything is possible.
Each place, I visit has its own story of how it came to be. It tells of the human influences on its soil, the myths and legends that surround it and may be forgotten truths that characters from its past have to tell.
Llyn y Fan Fach has a wonderful story to tell, enshrined in both myth and history. In Wales we call the faery folk the Tylwyth Teg and there is a special tribe of beautiful fae folk who live beneath the waters of rivers and lakes. These are the Gwragedd Annwn and the Lady of the Lake at Llyn y Fan Fach is one of these faeries, one of the Gwragedd Annwn.
The story tells us how the Lady of the Lake married a human being. How her husband lightly struck her 3 times and she returned to the lake, leaving her husband and sons behind. Then we encounter factual history- how Rhiwallon, her son became a famous physician and served Prince Rhys Gryg of the kingdom of Deheubarth in Wales in the 13th century. Rhiwallon was the first in the ancient lineage of the Physicians of Myddfai. We hear how these famous doctors had their herbal recipes recorded in the red book of Hergst , now held at Jesus College, Oxford and in a manuscript held in the British Museum.
As I tell the story, the lake and the Spirit of Place change. Myth and history mix. The mountains are no longer mountains but homes to potent healing herbs and miraculous cures . The waters are no longer just the result of rain, but they hold the Lady of the Lake and her healing powers. The story begins to make the spirit of place as much as the spirit of place makes the story.