This is the story of two young people from different cultures, who cling to their need for each other during the uncertain times of the Roman occupation of Britain. Two hundred years previously, the Druid religion was all but annihilated; the last vestige of it driven to Mona, the island of Anglesey. Now it falls to Ceridwen, young priestess and healer of the Celwri tribe, to ensure the survival of its Druid secrets. Her growing love for Marcus, a Roman military surgeon, complicates her life agonizingly, as she faces challenges she never dreamt of. How much of our lives are predestined and how much is due to our life choices? Faced with similar challenges centuries later, are there lessons we can learn? Her tribe awaits a just chieftain, but can events unfold to bring healing and peace to the land? The magic murmurs. The mists of Menai rise.
How I came to write ‘Where Rowans Intertwine’. One magical winter morning, as our family walked through the forest at the top of Mynydd Llwydiarth (Purple Mountain) on the island of Ynys Môn (Anglesey) in North Wales, we came across some pines steaming their frost into the glorious winter sunshine. We paused to watch the mist swirl and dance, gazing over to Snowdonia. Although only five hundred feet above sea level, the vista was incredible. Lower down the track, as the view urged us on, we came across a little white cottage for sale and fell in love. Six months later we moved in, incredulous at our luck in finding anywhere so beautiful.
So began my fascination with the area; and promptings from the rocks and forest behind the house captivated me and encouraged me to do some historical research. Market day in the town of Llangefni, in the centre of the island, was full of amazing encounters with local artists and regular folk searching for a bargain. The local hostelries were the places to find the characters; weather-beaten farmers and traders, earnestly practising that Welsh tradition of anecdotal competition… all in Welsh, which at that time escaped my understanding.
You couldn’t help noticing how many Welsh people had Roman noses, or how many of the women had that ‘Italian look’. These weren’t your typical tall Druids of the folk tales. Were these people descended from Romans? It got me ruminating about British history in general and about how we are all of very mixed race, descendants of wave after wave of intermarriage between settler and invader.
I wasn’t quite prepared for living on Anglesey. Although I lived there for 23 years of my married life, for a long time I felt a little estranged from the ‘indigenous’ Welsh community. It wasn’t until I seriously started studying the Welsh language and its history that I began to feel truly part of it. It was the time of the burning of holiday homes. Welsh Nationalist Extremists had had enough of the English moving into their rural villages and making them ghostly places with their empty holiday retreats. I began to ponder the insecurities of a land invaded and wondered a great deal about the Roman invasion of Anglesey, or Mona as it was called two thousand years ago.
For the first time in our married life I began to put down roots. We renovated the cottage and settled into our idyllic mountain retreat, one and a half miles from the village of Pentraeth. Down a mountain lane from the cottage was a convenient bus route for the children and myself to get to work and school and it was only a fifteen-minute commute for my husband to get to his office on the mainland at Bangor University. My job of running the kindergarten at a delightful private school in Llansadwrn was wonderfully rewarding, but kept me well occupied with little time for myself.
However our idyllic life was in for a shock. I developed chronic fatigue syndrome and an old injury to my spine was exacerbated by it; so much so that I could not walk without screaming. Giving up a job I truly loved, with people and pupils I truly loved, was a tremendous spiritual battle. I needed to find another life goal. Peculiar as it might seem, I did not feel daunted. I felt protected and that my disability had come to me for a reason. I decided that whilst I was bed-ridden I would research the novel that I had always wanted to write.
As a member of the Baha’i Faith (www.bahai.org) I had always been fascinated by the link between all religions and the unity of their Divine source. So, in order to be truly satisfying to write, the novel would have to lead me towards some form of spiritual research. Given where we lived on Anglesey, it seemed appropriate to delve into ancient Druid teachings.
It took two years of research and ten years of writing in short periods in the morning, when my brain was able to function. I propped myself up at the desk on a kneeling stool and began the task. I did all those mechanical things you are supposed to do when writing a novel; researched it avidly and charted its plot and characters. However, a very curious thing began to happen. As I began to immerse myself in the plot and characters, my planned story began to evaporate and was replaced by the promptings of its main heroine, Ceridwen, the Druid priestess of my story, who, I was convinced, had truly lived and worked near the site of our cottage.
The Druid’s Holy Place was always a mountain, where groves of sacred trees were established as a living temple and a clearing established for sacred rites. Near our mountain cottage were some struggling oak seedlings and a bluebell wood, competing with the pine forest, which had been planted to provide quickly grown timber during the Second World War.
Tacitus, the Roman chronicler, tells us that the sacred Druid groves were demolished with the Roman invasion of Mona, but do their progeny live on 2000 years later, I wondered? The more I researched, the more I became convinced that we were living on the ancient site of a Druid training school. And so this tale was born, woven like Celtic plaid from fact, inspiration and imagination. With technical help from novelist Melanie Kerr; a wonderfully skilled and very affordable formatting specialists called Stef at http://www.writeintoprint.com and talented Yvonne Betancourt at http://www.ebook-format.com, the novel is now available in both Kindle and paperback format from Amazon Books. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it….but I hope it will not take you as long!