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Meditation Archive - LLATAI: TRANSLATING LOVE’S MEANING by Caitlín Matthews
Llatai is one of those precious but untranslatable words that are often found in the possession of other languages not our own. Despite its highly textured glossary of possible words, the English language lacks any equivalent for this Welsh word for ‘a messenger by which love is known.’ This might be construed, prosaically, as a postman, perhaps, but is more likely to be the song of a bird, the lingering presence of a scent or a piece of music by which love is realized.

Dafydd ap Gwilym, that arch-poet  and lover of anything in skirts, used it extensively in his poetry.  A llatai (hLat'eye can only be an approximate pronunciation for the benighted foreigner) is a poet's kind of tool, a metaphysical, tangential sending by which love's reality can be conveyed. In the Woodland Mass, Dafydd ap Gwilym speaks of the thrush as a llatai who reminds him of Morfudd, his love: a grey messenger who is a stranger to him. The eyes of lovers are sharp to recognize a llatai, as are Isolt’s for the stripped ogam twigs that Tristan sends down stream to her. But yet, a llatai is not the same as a letter.

Does the soul of the lover go forth in the shape of a llatai - as a wind, as a creature of the earth, as a motion in the stars - to the presence of the beloved? Does the soul, yearning out of its breast, wander the world until it finds the beloved? I believe so. How many times, that we call synchronicity in our rational way, have we each known that presence, that sending of the lover and not felt ourselves loved?

It is messenger of love as clearly as if the beloved stood before us. It stands in for the beloved when we are absent from him or her. It is also a reminder to the lover of the beloved who might be in the state of forgetfulness.

The ring that the Beast gives Beauty when she goes home to nurse her sick father is a llatai; she looks upon it and knows that the Beast is declining without her presence: only then does she realilze that she really loves him. It is by means of this llatai that Beauty finally unbespells the Beast, for only love will serve.

We become aware of a llatai when we are least expect it, when the mind and perceptions are unhooked from their everyday mode, when the soul becomes permeable to the messages that speed unseen from the heart of the beloved into our own. Only when time frays from its fence posts, melts, becoming concentrated into one aperture that sees beyond time and space, is our understanding of llatai possible, when we enter into an exact understanding for which there are no other words but poetry.

The appearance of the White Hart in theMabinogion  and in the Arthurian legends, is a llatai that leads the knights deeper into the enchantments of the otherworld, a quest that is obtainable only by the one who loves best. It remains a llatai of the Grail quest, whose accomplishment comes at the cost of everything that is not love, for the Grail will only serve the one who loves the land best.

When you next ask for a sign from the universe, let it be one of love, a llatai that blesses you with the certainty that you too are supported and loved.

© – John and Caitlín Matthews Site design by Ocelot Solutions

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