The Chapel Swallowed By The Earth

The Chapel Swallowed By The Earth

chapel 1The Ministry of Defense doesn’t use the area as a firing range on the weekends so the boom gate is up.

It’s the most southerly part of the Pembrokeshire coast. Remote. Typically something you want in a firing range, I suppose.

And there is something faintly Bond about driving across flat grasslands between entirely empty, often derelict, old, military buildings, towards a cliff face and the Celtic Sea beyond.

It’s called the Celtic Sea now, but in the fifth century, it was the Celtic Highway.

Just along to the west is St David’s. You can follow the coast up and around into Iona and the Hebrides, tracing the ghostly remnants of those Dark Age Celtic saints and their new god.

Today is St Govan’s chapel.

He appears to have been a fifth century Irish mystic, bringing Christianity to Britain, but almost nothing is known about him.

So far so normal.

In one legend, he was being chased by pagans/pirates. God opened up a fissure in the rock which hid him from his pursuers. So he built a chapel in the fissure and lived out his days there.

This chapel:

chapel 2

As is my typically OCD way, we get there a bit after 8am on a Sunday, meaning the place is very much ours and ours alone. The building, believed to be from the fourteenth century but incorporating St Govan’s original structure, is reached at the end of some very steep, uneven steps carved into the rock face… steps that, themselves, have legends attached.

If you count them on the way down, you will always have a different number as you count them on the way up. Counting sounded to me like all together too much work for a Sunday morning, so you’ll have to try it out for yourselves.

chapel 3

Energetically, I suppose I was expecting something like St David’s or Iona…. a sacred portal to a time when a redemptive, civilising current was new and uncorrupted by its entanglement with the Roman empire’s second life as a bunch of kiddy fiddlers in shapeless, unflattering, summer dresses more typical of lobster-red British women in Benidorm. (I will never understand this country’s obsession with the maxidress.)

There is something about the early British church current that has not been properly expounded by wizards. It feels perpetually new in these sacred portal places. It’s like you can hear that message of universal redemption, not from some fallen state, but in a more alchemical sense -like an immortality formula- sung continuously by astral choirs. It is tech… and crucially, at the time, it was interoperable tech. It would be centuries before the invading belief system completely replaced the indigenous one, if it ever did.

I suspect this tech aspect, rather than the overly simplistic historical explanation of the conversion of the elites, is an under-emphasised contribution to Christianity’s rapid take-up across the country.

The view from the chapel doorway. Note the sacred well in the lower right.

The view from the chapel doorway.

St Govan’s Chapel does not feel like part of that current. For some reason, it is not a portal to that ‘perpetually new, civilising’ current. It has all the elements:

  • Elusive, mostly-mythical founding saint.
  • Acts of Faery Tale magic. The opening of the fissure and the rock that St Govan could make ring like a bell; Pirates/Vikings stole a large, silver bell, angels brought it back, concealed it in a rock. St Govan rings the rock. (‘Thou art Peter’ emanating along the Welsh coast?)
  • Ongoing folk magic: stand in the shallow nave, turn around and make a wish.
  • Holy wells: there’s a tiny curative well inside the chapel, and a dried up one between the chapel and the sea. You can see it in the lower right in the above image, or below:


Make no mistake, the place is magical. It’s a liminal location where the land literally meets the ocean, it’s inside the earth. But, from my experience, it doesn’t seem to hold the ‘personal redeemer as a blast of light from the heavens’ current the way many of the other places from that era seem to.

Is this because the surviving structure is from a later period? Maybe, but I doubt it. That wasn’t a problem on Iona. Maybe the quieter message of that Dark Age current is swamped by the louder one of its setting? Maybe it was my heatstroke-exacerbated hangover? (What self-respecting Australian gets heatstroke in Wales, I ask you?!)

You know what it feels like? It feels like a starter kit for a solitary mystic that you could buy on some cosmic version of Craigslist. BYO gods of any flavour and hit the ground running. It feels like the whole place could unpack into the current of your choosing. Staring out to sea, it crossed my tiny, dickish mind that it might even work with Dagon.


This shouldn’t strike us as weird. It may be the destiny of certain places to inspire us to look for That Which Is Within, without selling us a particular variant of it. Just because tech is interoperable, it does not necessarily follow that it is less sacred than current-specific tech.

Consider certain mantras as examples of interoperable tech. ‘Namaha’ is typically translated as ‘I bow to’ or ‘I honour’. But the best case for the etymology of the word is that it derives from the pre-scriptural Vedic ‘na mama’ contained in its sacred fire spells. (Pre-scriptural Vedic practices put us within spitting distance of sunken cities off the southern coast of India. We will have more of this in coming posts.) ‘Na’ is ‘not’ and ‘mama’ is ‘mine’.

So… AGNE IDAM NA MAMA translates as ‘O Lord of Fire! I offer that which is not mine (but Thine).’


So, one of the mantras I’ve been playing with the last few months is:


Arkaya being one of the twelve names or manifestations of the Sun, more specifically, a Light which ‘removes afflictions’. The Sun is certainly interoperable, the use of sound is certainly interoperable, and mantras are not only trespassing-safe because anyone can use them, they are specifically mentioned in the blueprints for the Pharaoh’s space ship“Also the mantras and spells; the obeah and the wanga; the work of the wand and the work of the sword; these he shall learn and teach.” By the way, that’s another clue to where some of these posts are going to go this year. (Lay in some whisky.)

From the original derivation of the relevant words, then:

I offer to You the Light which removes afflictions, which is not mine, but Thine

Try it. For me, the potency comes from the closing the circuit, so to speak… offering the Light to the Light. A few repetitions with your hands in an open offering position and you start shooting golden, cartoon, laser beams out of them like when Cyclops gets his glasses knocked off in X-Men.

This is interoperable tech that retains sanctity. Yes, it’s derived from yogic sun salutations. But, in any language, it is a simultaneous offering and drawing down of the healing light of the Highest. (Attention anoraks: If you want to come at me in the comments with nitpicky, minute, yoga ontologies then your archaeo-linguistics better be up to scratch because I have been upgrading mine. Sundaland or bust!)


Sitting outside, staring at the sea, I think… Fuck it. I come to these places early to do these. Let’s test the hypothesis. So I stand in the chapel and recite the mantra and number of times… and the whole place hums to life like it was built just for me and just for this.

The chapel by the sea, swallowed by the earth, briefly dedicated to the Light which removes afflictions. Again.

Not that it was particularly difficult to invoke the sun in Wales this weekend gone. Behold our Saturday:chapel 6

The Light which removes afflictions indeed!

Let’s see how it does with sunburn.


Add yours
  1. 2
    Joe Giva

    Minor nitpick: I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate to say that mantras are open to anyone. Some certainly are, but my understanding is that certain mantras within tantric traditions are supposed to be hands-off for those without the proper empowerment from a guru within the lineage.

    That being said, I fully intend to test-drive the one you’ve listed here. And I am a huge fan of your approach to the Invisible; your combination of personal gnosis and research into ancient revelations is inspired in every sense of the word.

  2. 3

    ‘Certain’ mantras? Did you see anywhere where I said you may use any and all mantras with gay abandon? This is all very well covered in the trespassing post. Which is linked.

    However, I’m glad you liked the post. :)

  3. 4
    Andrew B. Watt


    I agree that such places can be used effectively with material from “open” or “outer court” traditions of a number of other traditions. It turns out that working with tai chi stances in cathedrals can be quite effective.

    The light which removes afflictions. Hmmm. I like that.
    Andrew B. Watt´s last blog post ..Tai Chi Y2D133: springiness

  4. 5
    Rob Baal

    Lovely post as usual Gordon.

    Re: the comment on the mantra (Hi Joe) – that mantra is not particularly tantric and is freely offered in the book “Healing Mantras” by Namadeva Acharya (Thomas Ashley Farrand) which is widely available.


  5. 6


    Yesterday was a fast day, which means awesome/weird dreams.

    I received the impression that the reason St Govan’s didn’t feel part of the Celtic/Gaelic early church current was because the holy well has dried up.

    For whatever the dreams of a hungry, sunburnt weirdo are worth. :)

  6. 7

    your pursuit of psyche-geography is so entertaining.

    Your mantra is yeah, golden light pouring forth, but recently I’ve started to get that impression whenever I make offerings now. It’s not always golden light, but it’s light none the less.

    I picked up a modern mantra from the (now passed) Man-woman. The one given goes “OM namaha swastikaya” but I flipped the words just now to “OM swastikaya namaha” and oh shit. there it went, lighting up like a laser firework show on the 4th of July.

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