Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Song Of Amergin and Transformation

Transformation is, among other things, taking on the form of something other than one's current form. Some people say that it is possible to do so in a physical way, though I have seen little evidence of that. I do know one woman who is able to so thoroughly take on the kinesics (body-language) of canines that she appears at a quick glance to be canine in form. However, another method of transformation is mental in nature (and may underlay that woman's remarkable ability). It involves completely identifying with another form by use of the imaginative faculty. Now, imagination is widely maligned in the modern world as being separate from anything “real”, but it was not always so. As late as the nineteenth century, important theories of art relied on the imagination as a basic element of the cosmos. For myself, I do think that it is an expression of the creative force, which the Irish knew as brí .

One of the most important Irish sources related to the identification with the other is the poem known as the Song of Amergin. In this song, the poet identifies himself with many aspects of the world, taking them into himself and becoming one with all things. Here is one translation (by R.A.S. Macalister. Others, and the original Irish, can be found here ):

I am Wind on Sea,
I am Ocean-wave,
I am Roar of Sea,
I am Bull of Seven Fights,
I am Vulture on Cliff,
I am Dewdrop,
I am Fairest of Flowers,
I am Boar for Boldness,
I am Salmon in Pool,
I am Lake on Plain,
I am a Mountain in a Man,
I am a Word of Skill,
I am the Point of a Weapon (that poureth forth combat),
I am God who fashioneth Fire for a Head.
Who smootheth the ruggedness of a mountain?
Who is He who announceth the ages of the Moon?
And who, the place where falleth the sunset?
Who calleth the cattle from the House of Tethys?
On whom do the cattle of Tethys smile?
Who is the troop, who the god who fashioneth edges
in a fortress of gangrene?
Enchantments about a spear? Enchantments of Wind.

There is a similar poem associated with Taliesin, in the Brythonic tradition. Here is the relevant section (in translation, of course, though the only translation I could find quickly was that of Robert Graves):

Primary bard to Elphin am I
And my country is the region of the Summer Stars.
Many have called me Merddin,
But at length every man will call me Taliesin!
I have been a herdsman, and traveled over the earth.
I have slept in a hundred islands, guest of a hundred kings.
I have dwelt in a hundred cities.
For a year and a day I was in fetters…
I have been a fierce bull and a yellow buck.
I have been a boat upon the sea.
I have been the foam of water.
I have been a drop in the air.
I have journeyed high as an eagle.
I have been a tree-stump in a shovel.
I have been an axe in the hand.
I have been a spotted snake on a hill.
I have been a wave breaking on the beach.
On a boundless sea I was set adrift…
Then for nine months I was little Gwion
In the womb of Ceridwen,
And at length was Taliesin.
I have been at the throne of the Distributor.
I have stood high upon the white hill.
I was fluent before being gifted with speech.
I have been teacher to all intelligences.
I have singly built the tower of Nimrod.
I am the Tetragrammaton.
I am a wonder whose origin is not known.
I shall be until the day of doom upon the Earth,
And it is not known whether my body is flesh or fish.

The same concept appears in poetry found in many other cultures worldwide, of course.

Identification with the Other is the theme of poems like these. Bringing all of the cosmos into oneself through the imaginative faculty is the goal of the poet. This is one of the meanings of shape-shifting. So, let's look at one way to do it.

A technique that is used by a number of occult or self-improvement methods is sometimes called “Assumption”, by which we can use the imaginative faculty to transform ourselves. Because the term “Assumption” is tied up in a particular metaphysics which I do not share, I will instead call it “Transformation”. It is a fairly simple practice of meditation which is best done by steps.

First, find a small object of uniform character and simple shape. A small, homogenous stone, a piece of copper, or the like are best. Sit with it in front of you, and close your eyes. Envision the object in detail (open your eyes to glance at it if you need to, but the goal is to be able to envision it completely with your eyes shut). In your vision, slowly make the object larger and larger, until it is the size of a door that you can walk through. Now, imagine that you and the object are merging together, becoming one thing. Feel the sensations of the object itself and what it (you!) is feeling. How does it feel to be a stone? What is your temperature? What is the kinesthetic sensation of being that piece of copper?

After a while of meditating on this simple object, move on to a plant. Choose a plant that is alive, and go through the same process of meditation. Envision the plant in detail, learn about its cellular structure and include that in your visualization, slowly enlarge it to a size large enough that you can fit within it, and merge yourself with the plant. After working with the plant, you can do the same meditation with an animal, then a particular human being, then a large system like a river or mountain, with its complex parts, ecosystems, and so on. In each case, do not meditate on an abstract representative of the object in question, but an actual example. Not “a stone”, but a particular stone you have actually picked up from the roadside. Not “a rosebush”, but the rosebush beside your front door. Not “a person”, but a specific person whose name you know and who you can observe – perhaps a friend who is working through this series of meditations with you.


  1. Wonderful Post thankyou,
    I thought that you might like my machinima film of
    The Song Of Amergin, A Samhain Story,
    Blessed Be By Stone and Star,
    Celestial Elf ~

  2. Thank you for that. I'm a little bit concerned at the combining of the story of Bran with the Song of Amergin, but it's still a fun little piece.