Mass exodus. Mass migration. We scatter frenetically to multiple corners of the earth. We seek peace. We seek distractions. We seek enlightenment. We seek disconnection. Or we seek all of the above—and more—in this brief grace period called "vacation".
It is a time when we give ourselves the license to dream. It is a time to lose ourselves to reverie. We immerse ourselves in the sea. We immerse ourselves in the forest. We immerse ourselves in the imaginary. And if we allow for stillness, we see what was once invisible.
In the northwestern edge of France lies mystic Brittany. It cradles an enchanted forest steeped in dreams and history: Huelgoat. Originally a hunting ground during the Mesolithic period, it then became the land of Armorican Celts, the land of the Dukes of Brittany and, finally, the land of the Kingdom of France in 1532.
To this day, myths and legends passed down through oral tradition from centuries ago impregnate the air of this special place.
Being an integral part of the mythical Brocéliande, the forest of King Arthur, its foliage is home to many legends, from Arthur to Dahut to Tristan and Yseult. The forms of fantastic creatures engraved in the rocks, sculpted into the forest, or dressed in moss, awaken our youthful souls, the part of us that allows us to see forms in the clouds.
Yet, during the height of the summer season, with the influx of trampling tourists, fairies hide and forest creatures become inanimate. Big rocks with supernatural powers remain tacit and immobile; they tolerate the torture of grappling human hands and noise, with the infinite patience of stoic giants.
It is only when one veers away from the much-trodden path, far from the madding crowd, that one discovers the so-called in-between places. This is where the secret hidden life of the forest reveals itself. And it is only when one looks closely with utmost stillness, that the rocks, trees, and green mossy beings reveal their secret festivals, conversations, and games.
Rocks and Caves of
Myths and Legends
(Text adapted from Huelgoat: Legendes et Contes by Edition Tendres Lutins)
Legend has it that there is a path in the forest called Louarn which is conducive to reverie and meditation. It is marked by "doors" that will open your spirit. In order to escape from the world of Men where he could not find his place, a young child-fairy followed the footsteps of a fox into the forest. Every day, the fox waited for him in the same place and took him a little farther into the forest. When they came to a new stone door each day, the child learned a little more about himself and the fox disappeared. The child then turned back, with an increased awareness of what he was, and went back into the small hovel that served as his home. When he came to the end of the road and passed the tall trees, the boy was no longer a young and innocent child. He had acquired all the knowledge that would enable him to fully assume who he was.
It is also said that a sorceress sat at the edge of the River of Silver one full moon evening to admire herself in the stream. She stopped all of a sudden to wonder what made her so beautiful. When she realized that it was due to Lady Moon, she decided to imprison her rays in the river to allow every woman who looks at herself in the river to become eternally beautiful.
A clusters of rocks called the Chaos is believed to have come into being due to angry giants. One of the legends recounts the story of a giant who stopped by near the forest of Huelgoat. He became hungry and asked the villagers to offer him a meal. But displeased with everything that was offered, he huffed and left for the moors in the north. There, he took all the rocks he found and hurled them toward Huelgoat, swearing that this land would become sterile while the moors would become fertile.
Not so far away from the rocks of Chaos stands Trembling Rock. During Celtic times, it was considered a "magic" rock because the Druids saw a symbol of God's power in its form. Hence, this became a sacred Druidic place believed to hold the memories of equinox or solstice ceremonies and rituals.
According to an Arthurian legend, when Lancelot du Lac left Camelot and the Round Table, Arthur, having lost his best knight, came and hid the treasures of Camelot in Arthur's Cave to protect them until the the end of time. Thanks to Merlin's magic, the treasures were protected by wandering souls and will o' the wisps.
Close to the edge of the forest and hidden underneath the rocks of Chaos is the Devil's Grotto whose water sprung from a mineral mouth. Some believe it to be one of the doors to the underworld—or hell.
There is vibrant life in the paths, rivers, rocks, and the caves of Huelgoat Forest. Yet, its imaginary kingdom comes to life and reveals itself only when we choose to see.