I am Wang Xiaotang. My grandparents were street traders and peasants who hail from the lands around the ancient city of Kaifeng. My father became a rich man through his business enterprises. But it is better not to name him, for he was ashamed to own the offspring of an affair with one of his employees. I who have naught of shame may still respect the shame of others. And I’m grateful to my father for leaving me, his only child, wealth, which I inherited when I turned eighteen. I decided to study in London and bought a luxury apartment in The Denizen, a new development in Golden Lane, located just beyond the original city wall. I wish I hadn’t bought this property.
My hometown is known for being cosmopolitan in affairs of religion. It is most famous for its synagogues and mosques, but there are also Christian churches, and it is to the latter I belonged. My new apartment building was wrapped around the Jewin Welsh Church, and the singing there attracted my attention. I attended some services and a man I met at these took me to the London Welsh Centre in Grays Inn Road. It was at this latter institution I met my Bard.
The Bard told me that I was of a descent far beyond the The Morrígan, and that I brought with me a name of my own: Morgaine of the Immortals: and my vanity made me believe him.
I live alone now, untainted by the company of the gods he conjured for my amusement, men or beasts.
I dream strange dreams: and in one of them, I dreamed I was a mortal —Wang Xiaotang.
Although my father was very rich, neither he and nor my mother gave me much in the way of confidence or love. They were hypocrites, but hypocrisy is quite usual among men, and I learned from them to hide my real feelings and to deceive.
I married, really married, a Bard at the age of nineteen: but no one knew it, and but for this confession none would ever have known I was one of those Chinese women who are made for Ovates: and among the thousands of deluded women who prostrate themselves before Bards, I was one of the most deluded.
I saw the Bard’s eyes flash with interest the first time he caught sight of me, a sophisticated Chinese woman so different to his white admirers. From that day on I saw him daily. He deprived me of much, beauty, ideals and money – but in the end, I believe, I deprived him of greater things. It is no joy to write this.
Long afterwards, when I was disgusted, truly disgusted, both spiritually and physically, he still wanted me; but he counted the agony he suffered at my refusal to live with him any more, fair price for the pleasure he had craved.
The British are a strange race. But those who reject modern British identity in favour of their Celtic roots are stranger yet. My Welsh bard was a very peculiar man indeed.
I gained from him weird and crazy wisdom: the measure of his strength cannot be judged even by me — his weakest link.
I thought I loved him, and though I love him no longer, still there has been that strange bond of husband and wife between us that bids me still remember.
I gave him all I had to give, little enough now I think.
He paid dearly for that seed of lust in him which, despite his years of austerity, had not been completely burned, and was brought, by my presence, to full life.
I shuddered often at his ugliness, his crudity, and his strength: but I submitted to his wishes all the same. He was so weird, so compelling, so sure of me.
He placed me under a spell, bewildered me with the glamour of power.
He told me that for seven births I had been his wife — they always tell you that, I hear — and for eight years of this mortal life of mine I was to remain his, body and soul; and afterwards, he said, his vision was clouded by his desire, and he could not see properly.
Welsh and Irish alike spoke of my husband in hushed tones: a Cunning Man — a man of superhuman power.
I, too, thought that through him I might reach godhood: not God, mark you, but godhood. At first I wanted to reach only God, but his devotees laughed; they told me the Bard Himself was God.
And he allowed me to think of him as The Green Man.
From that first day he singled me out with favour, and I sat hour after hour beside him watching the multitude throng around him and worship at his feet. At first this was in various pubs in Central London, but as soon he’d captured my heart, he held his ritual and crazy wisdom sessions in The Denizen; in my apartment when only a few followers had gathered together, or in the block’s games room or private cinema if a multitude were present. He called my flat his cave!
I loved him then, not as a man, but as an emblem of goodness and love: and now love and goodness are myths to me forever.
He said I was the greatest “Muse” of any world; and begged me, finally, on his knees, to marry him. He said that my youth and beauty had driven him mad.
He assured me I would gain superhuman powers by the union, even if he gained the dire displeasure of the Grand Magus, and his dead “High Priest.”
Something weak in me made me yield my body to this man of an alien land.
Some debauch themselves for wealth, some for lust. I debauched myself in a search for God. There was a lack of balance in this wild desire to find transcendence at any cost. But I was nineteen, my own mistress, and had loads of money. Why should I care? I only hid my marriage because the Bard told me to.
I had read much and one story in an old book stuck in my mind and haunted me. It described certain magical rites in a Druid grove, partially correct as I – and the reader – will soon be aware.
A young and lovely girl was brought to an altar, in this instance the recumbent stone in an Aberdeenshire Neolithic circle, before which lay a coffin in which reposed a very old man, some thousands of years old it was said.
The naked girl approached the prone figure and sat on its face, so that her sex pushed against his lips. The corpse-like creature, whose mummified tongue could hardly move at first, began suddenly to suck and lick heartily and soon grew young. He then tried to push the fainting girl onto his manhood; but she eluded him, floating far above the concourse of chanting worshippers.
Returning to earth at last, she again allowed him to take sustenance from her vaginal fluids. This time his phallus was inserted into her and the two of them lay still for hours. This wasn’t intercourse as most would understand it, there was no movement and the revived Druid’s member was flaccid, not erect, throughout. He was now strong, young and beautiful; and he fled away with the girl in his arms.
This weird story haunted me: for at night I too floated gently above the world with a strange man, light of my life, who drew me down to earth and to his embraces. I feel some pale tremor of passion as I write. I dare not call it evil, for I have, long since, forgotten the definition of good and evil.
I have the Bard’s photograph before me, and I never look at it now without a shudder: the coarse mouth, the strong jaw, the flattened nose, the indifferent forehead, the brilliant blue eyes under their thin eyebrows: how had I dreamed that I loved him as a mate.
He has taught me one thing: to fear nothing on earth, so I do not fear him either — now.
I have never forgotten his training, I never will. I gained much wisdom from him, strange powers; experienced many delights, and dying I can forgive him all: for it was better for me that the seed of all this should ripen to destruction.
Did I say he suffered more than I did? I was wrong. He could not suffer even as much, because he was never human.
I do not know, even now, whether he was superhuman or subhuman. Ultimately he was a gweilo, a ghost.
I cannot appeal even to God to decide for me or inspire me here; for I am not sure any more whether God belongs to him or to me: or Who He is or What He is.
I am unsure whether I should be glad or sad at my approaching death; for I do not know if life restarts there or ends…
The Bard pandered to my vanity. He said that what I willed could move the world, and I have often experimented to find out if this were really true. I found that after my marriage I could bring down rain or snow by willing hard for both. But the Bard did not want me to do this whimsically, because he said it was not well to interfere in the magic of Another.
“The whole world,” he said, “is magic. You must not let your magic interfere with the magic of any person made great by absorption of smaller and subordinate wills.”
Devotees of every religion he told me, feed the entities they believe in and give them power. I have paid for the power I possessed. Once I wanted to be a deer, so I whispered a mighty word, droning it to a sound, and I left my body. I entered through the left ear of a deer and I whispered through his mouth the mighty Name, dancing through luxuriant woods, nibbling here, nibbling there, throwing up my head at the sound of the wolf upstream, but without fear — was he not also myself?
I nearly became a deer forever —I forgot I was a woman. Only by the Bard’s intervention did I come forth from the deer with a woman’s consciousness to reanimate my long prone body.
Do I write of incredible things? Perhaps I am a century before or after my time?
I entered Wales via Bristol pretending to be a Chinese student with an interest in Welsh Methodist traditions. The Bard was following me and I waited for him in the Goat’s Hole Cave on the Gower Peninsula.
In this cave, it is believed that the Gog and Magog rested on their journey to Lud’s Town (later London): and in this cave, too, the Bard said, twenty thousand Druids had meditated and attained great power.
Perhaps it is true, as true as anything else in the world: but I have come across many “Goat’s Hole Caves” in many mountains on the Celtic fringe, and the same story of Gog and Magog is told of each one of them.
The Bard held a large court were we met up, blessing dozens of devotees by touching them with the long flag he held in his hand.
Thus did the Bard impart a certain power to his worshippers. “Shazam,” he said, for shazam was his magic word.
There were some festival stall traders in the assembly whom he had helped in material ways: he had told them which tarot packs to buy, and when to sell them: when to purchase St John’s-wort, when to dispose of it, and when to keep it: he regulated the festival markets of the world from behind the scenes.
Aristocrat and peasant alike tramped through the Welsh countryside to pay the Bard obeisance. All came to him thinking he could help them realise their desires. Very few wanted to devote themselves to God, many wanted sons, desired health, wealth – and all craved power — power. He’d wave a willow stick and shout ‘izzy wizzy, let’s get busy’ during the rituals he held to help them attain whatever it was they wanted.
The hippies I met on that trip and later excursions with the Bard all loved and respected me. But when we went down to Swansea, I met a man who did not like me. The Grand Magus, who often teased the Bard for being born in Newport, it’s almost in England he’d repeat again and again while wagging a finger. The Bard had moved to Cardiff in his late-teens, and from thence to London.
The Grand Magus who hated me. He knew my antipathy towards him and by his clairvoyance, he knew also, that I should write of things forbidden.
“I shall curse you,” he warned me.
But I thought: “I shall use their own magic against them: test the will-power they have developed in me for their own uses, and spend it against theirs.”
The Grand Magus continued to read my thoughts to my own mortification. He told me of a devil-king who, by his austerity, won a boon from the great God- Arawn that even the immortals would become ashes if a certain symbol for poetic inspiration were placed on their heads.
The devil-king tried to test it on Arawn himself, who fled from the terror of his own gift.
“Write, mad Christian woman,” said the Grand Magus, “write if you dare.”
My Bard said: “If you destroy all idols of worship, what then will the world worship? The world always worships false idols: will you then destroy all faith?”
Will my words leave the world a little more stricken and bereft of faith? Let me get back to my tale and we’ll see.