Several years ago, around the same time I was having my first encounters with Deer, I had a Tarot reading done for me by a stranger. There are enough people close to me who are excellent with Tarot that I don’t usually need to go far if I want a reading from someone who isn’t me.  I didn’t need to at this time, either, and I didn’t have much of anything going on at the time that I wanted to ask a stranger about, but there was this guy and he was doing readings and I was curious.

He didn’t impress me as a reader. One problem with having a very strong background in this sort of thing is that it’s hard for me to shut off my inner critic. He was sincere enough, but I felt like he was doing too much cold-reading and not enough card-reading, and I always find that a turn-off. I listened politely out of basic respect but I really didn’t pay attention to a whole lot of what he said because I didn’t like his approach.  I wish now that I had paid more attention because one thing he said really leaped out at me and stayed with me long after I forgot everything else he said.

We were talking about my spiritual path – I asked for advice on how to proceed and how to deepen my work. I told him that I was having lots of faery encounters and I wanted to know what to do with that. He said, “These beings have hierarchies, both locally and on a planetary level. If you want to know more, you should go and see the king.” I filed that away in my head as interesting-but-maybe-not-relevant, as none of the encounters I’d had up to that time had mentioned anything about hierarchies or leadership. But it struck a chord with me for reasons I didn’t understand, in the same way as I didn’t understand Deer when it first appeared.

In the meantime, I kept on doing Faery work, and found the writing of RJ Stewart to help guide that practice, and through him Orion Foxwood and the “Faery Teachings.” Last fall, Foxwood published another book “Tree of Enchantment.” I’m usually a very fast reader and will tear through books in no time, but I’m still working on “Tree of Enchantment” six months later. I feel like it was written just for me to find at this time, because it brings together all these different bits and pieces of my spirituality that for the longest time ran on different tracks. Foxwood brings all those bits together into a coherent system that works really well for me, in part because it seems to confirm things that I was working on all along.

I got as far as chapter 6 by Samhain last year. Chapter 6 is called “Encountering the King of the World.” I don’t want to say a whole lot more about it here – if you really want to know what it says, go read the book. The experience I’m about to relate happened as a result of doing the practices taught there and in Orion Foxwood’s other works as well.

 Orion Foxwood’s image of the Guardian has antlers. This seemed significant to me because I had been continually encountering antlered or deerlike beings for a long time in the Otherworld. It seemed like I couldn’t set foot there without seeing something deer-ish. As I said in my last post, I didn’t understand the nature of the totem animal and didn’t think to relate it to that concept. I just thought, hey, here’s this antlered being and I have a thing with antlered beings, I should explore that. At the same time I paid attention to the “King of the World” bit and related it back to that bit of advice I got long before, about going to see the king of the faeries. I thought, well, hey, Samhain’s coming up and it’s about time!  And I went to my backyard with an offering and the intention of meeting the King of the World.

 I got most of the way through the induction exercises when I became aware of Otter, leaning against the fence and watching me curiously. He’s always there when I do faery work in that spot, so it was no surprise. He’s the genus loci of my neighborhood. I noticed him and paused in my work to acknowledge and greet him.

“You sure have big plans for this evening, huh?” he commented.

“Yep,” I replied, “I want to meet the King!”

He got up and strolled into the middle of my working area. Otter never looks the same way twice – I know it’s him because I know him, but his actual appearance varies. At this time, he looked a lot like the illustration of the Guardian.

“But you’re not – “

“No, of course not. But I can help you here. Keep going with what you were doing.”

I was surprised, because Otter has never actually offered to help me with anything. We have kind of a tense relationship. But here, he seemed almost kind. He approved of what I was doing and wanted to facilitate it.

I see then four gates at the four quarters around me, like shining doorways. I see figures approaching from the other side of each door. Suddenly, there is an Alice in Wonderland moment where my perspective shifts and I became hugely tall and the four doorways became like mouse holes. Otter has also grown in size and is starting to fuzz out and seem less and less like Otter. He looks kinder and less ridiculous. Almost… majestic. I find that I cannot look away from his eyes. From the now-tiny doorways, a vast multitude of small glowing beings, alight like fireflies, swarm from all four directions and begin to cover his body. They burrow in and become part of him. I can see each tiny little spark has antlers.

 The being before me is now a grand and majestic vaguely humanoid antlered figure. I think. I can’t look away from his eyes to see anything else. I know that I am in the presence of a god.

 At that point, there was a transmission of knowledge – we didn’t chat, like I might have with someone like Otter – it was more like suddenly feeling pieces of a puzzle shift together in my head, so that I understood things that I hadn’t understood before. One of the bits of knowledge was the identification of Deer with the “totem” or “power animal” concept. There were some other important things, such as an understanding of the whole King of the Faeries/King of the World/Horned God identity as a coherent sort of being – his nature and his function – things I don’t feel equipped to go into detail about. If you’ve gone through such a thing, you know why it’s hard to write about, and if you haven’t, then it wouldn’t matter even if I did write about it because that’s not how one learns these things. I could write an entire book on what I learned while standing there with him, though I probably shouldn’t. It was definitely a transformative initiatory experience.

 I asked him two things. The first was what to call him. The name he gave was Gwyn ap Nudd, which fits in well with the Welsh/Avalonian current that I’ve been on for a while now. As with other gods that I have encountered, I am unsure as to the relationship between the Being and the Name, as it were – how the being that I encountered is related to the mythological figure. I’m still sorting that one out. One idea that I have on this is that the name is a key to understanding more about who the being is – reading about Gwyn ap Nudd has certainly helped to make sense of the initial info-dump he gave me. But that’s going off topic. It’s enough to say that he is called Gwyn.

 The other question I asked was, what do I do now? I expected an instruction of some kind – do this practice, learn that story, practice this art. His answer was entirely clear and free of ambiguity. He said, Get a tattoo of a deer skull on your lower back.

 Oh, I said. Um, okay. Why?

 Because I said so, he answered. You get to figure out why.

 So I did, and that will be the next post.