Patron of the Scarlet Cloak: My Spirit Guide
This is one of those blog posts I am not entirely sure how to write. There are a lot of feelings involved. I want to do him justice, so it took me a while. My spirit guide has saved my life more than once, and he is like a father to me. That being said, this isn’t meant entirely as a personal story – I do believe he has a lot to teach, and I have seen him guiding others as well as he guides me – so it’s only fair I share my experience for others to see. Come on in the hut, I’m making dandelion tea for everyone. Sweet refreshing taste, good for the liver.
What's in a name?
If you are a spirit worker, you’ll probably agree with me: spirits don’t usually consent to revealing their names in public, for a spirit’s name allows us to control them. Talorc is no different. Oops, what have I done? Not to worry: this is his title as a king, so it’s already public. There is even a list in the public domain summarised by wikipedia (I’d say this title system is comparable to the Pope, who chooses his own name previous to taking office). His actual name is in Pictish and I’m taking it to the grave – so should everyone else under his guidance. “Talorc” means “pet of the king” (literally “will of the king”) in old Gaelic and refers to a tale he told me that he was given the crown because of his charisma alone. All the other “Talorcs” who came after him weren’t necessarily charismatic, they simply claimed ancestry (which in Pictland does not always mean DNA).
If you look at the king list, the first occurrence of the name is “Talorc Mac Achiuir” who reigned 25 years during the 4th-5th century AD. According to the confirmations so far, this is my spirit guide. The Picts were polygamic and had a complex family tree – I will get into that in another blog post. It wasn’t only common, but also considered ideal (especially among the royals) not to know for sure who was their biological father. The word “Mac” (son of), in this case, relates to mentorship, whereas for peasants it simply meant whoever raised the kid. This much I know because he told me. Given how keen he is on backing up the information he gives me, I trust this is accurate. (But for the sceptics out there, don’t worry, I will back this up with the actual confirmations in an upcoming post. Stay tuned).
What does he look like?
I am not the only person who has seen Talorc. People who approach me for group work or healing tend to see him, too. The ways they see him may vary (in dreams, waking visions, the mind’s eye, just “an intuition” for what he looks like, etc), but his description is consistently precise and matches the way I see him: he is a lean and average-built 40-year-old man. Bald, tattooed head (none on the face though), sun-kissed skin, light blue eyes, brown facial hair and a mischievous smile. A celebrity who looks a lot like him is Gustaf Skarsgård. Imagine Gustaf as a 40-year old, and there ya go:
He always wears a lot of silver and very colorful clothes, often layered and mismatching. The one thing that never changes (apart from the designs on his head, always so black and looking fresh) is the garment he is well-known for: an opulent red cloak.
Talorc as a muse
I’ve always known this person who comes to me in spirit, ever since I was a wee girl. I haven’t always known who he was, though, as I wasn’t yet prepared for spirit work. The earliest memory I have of him is a vision I had during a sunny day – I was a kid, no idea how old. I saw him on a throne made of wood. Giant wicker panels behind him, the fibres twisted into intricate patterns and reflecting the sunlight as if it was gold. He had a serious expression and didn’t look at me directly, but I felt oddly safe instead of intimidated. The vision lasted for a few seconds, but it remains to this day very fresh in my memory, so I refer to it every time I want to describe him.
Although Talorc didn’t speak to me until recently, he has always been very present. I didn’t realise before how present he was, but now that I am looking back into my past, I can see it very clearly. I saw things and thought they were mundane and didn’t think much. I also felt things deeply, and was influenced by Talorc in certain areas of my personality – especially my taste for clothing.
If my family ever reads this, they will probably confirm what I say: as a wee kid I became really obsessed with red clothing and wanted to wear the colour from head to toe all the time. It started very suddenly (I wouldn’t be surprised if it started after the vision – ya know how early childhood memories tend to get a bit entangled in a very unclear timeline) and didn’t go away until my early adolescence, when my tastes became a bit more refined (but still very much influenced by him). I took it easier on the red (and would later wear just any colour. My current favourite is blue), but became obsessed with silver jewellery, plaid patterns and every kind of embroidery. As time went by, I became self-conscious of my weird unique style and just decided to pretend I was into trendy things – metal, soccer, japanese anime and alternative fashion, etc, in order to fit in with other kids. Only now I am embracing again my old self, unapologetically Pictish, and telling my inner child that everything will be okay. It is a process.
Another area of my life he probably influenced a lot was my temper. I recall being a wee child and hearing a lot that I was “bossy”. My parents’ biggest complaint was always how “disobedient” I was, despite the fact I was considered a well-behaved kid. I’ve always had to deal with controlling people who just couldn’t handle my sovereignty. I think I could say I have been claiming my power back for almost two decades now, but this is also a process. In the end, Talorc raised me to be my best self and I shouldn’t have stopped listening to him as I grew up – even if his presence was that of a muse, simply inspiring.
One thing to keep in mind about Talorc, if he works with you, is you shouldn’t ever simply rely on him for leadership and secular guidance, while underestimating his spiritual knowledge or how powerful he really is. A spirit who has been around for almost 2 millennia doesn’t need to be a known witch in order to manipulate energies with a lot of precision. Add to that the fact he was a leader and diplomat in life, and you get a very cunning guide.
Talorc knows when to simply inspire, when and where to appear, and how. Most of the time, he is by my side or available on call, but if my life is in danger for mental health reasons, he can and will “take over”. I can count on my fingers how many times he actually possessed me, but the best story is the following:
During my teenage years, there was a time when I suffered a lot of bullying at school. It wasn’t only the usual teasing, but also exclusion from every clique (despite my efforts to fit in), serious betrayals and stalking. Combined with the controlling behaviour at home, I felt utterly unwelcome and invalidated in life. It came to a point when I considered ending it. I never actually did anything, or told anyone (I couldn’t trust anyone), but I did consider the possibility, then for the first time. One specific day the feeling got especially bad. Suddenly something made me say aloud I would “teach the bullies a lesson”.
Next morning I don’t know why or how, but I told my mother I would borrow her jewellery for school. She was curious as to why, but I said I’d return it as I found it. I needed it in order to “give a lecture”. I honestly cannot remember it myself, but she does. I went to school as I always did – this much I remember. I also recall asking the teacher first thing in the class for “a couple of minutes in front of everyone” – she consented, as I was usually well-behaved.
Next thing I remember, I was back in my desk listening to the teacher. Some of the classmates would occasionally look at me – not in the usual mischievous way, but respectfully – even though I probably looked like a Christmas tree. Clearly something had taken over me and used my body to give a very good lecture a few minutes before. I think I will never know what I actually said (or what he said through me), but it was effective for the bullying to stop for a while.
So you’re guided by a king? Really?
Aye, it also took me a while to believe it. I always knew he was a spirit of great status and everyone seemed to respect him – but this trait isn’t unheard of, in fact it can be very common among spirits. One does not need to be truly royal in order to feel royal, or fake it. When I reconnected with him last year, after a long hiatus of denying to myself that I was supposed to train as a spirit worker, I hesitated in believing he really was who he claimed to be. In fact, when I met him, and he told me he was a Pictish king known as Talorc the First, I asked him to prove it.
In came the confirmations! He proceeds to tell me he was crowned at around 17, unified Pictish tribes and ruled as high king with diplomacy with Picts and Romans, died at around 42 (Pictish year counts can be weird). I was already aware of the existence of a list of Pictish kings when I met him last year – I had contemplated making one of my short films about Roman Britain, but quickly abandoned the idea as it was too ambitious. So, I had glanced at the list and seen a few names, but didn’t really spend time studying it much. I certainly didn’t know anything by heart or in-depth. So I checked it again and there it was: Talorc Mac Achiuir did reign for 25 years, and it did happen during the Roman Empire. I accepted it as a wee confirmation but couldn’t completely exclude the possibility that Talorc might have been a figment of my own imagination. Cannot help it, I am a big sceptic.
A few months went by, and I happened by chance upon an old article featuring a “facial reconstruction of a Pictish man”. The minute I saw it, Talorc told me “that’s me”. I compared them and they aren’t exactly alike, but I gotta give the forensic artist a lot of credit – it is pretty difficult to guess how much hair someone had, or where, even if hair colour can be determined. Despite this wee difference, when I read the article, all else confirmed what I knew: he died in his 40s, 1,500 years ago. Buried near Pitlochry – this bit still needs confirmation.
Possible link to Wales?
This is a can of worms, so I will summarise it. It may or may not be a link to the man who became my spirit guide and I’m entirely open to the possibility that it isn’t. A couple of weeks ago, a friend recommended me an article on the Kingdom of Gwynedd in Wales and I was casually reading it. I learned it was founded by Cunedda, grandson of “Patron of the Red Cloak” (Not to be mistaken with St. Padarn, who lived a few centuries after) from “the North”, ie. Pictish, more specifically the “Votadini” tribe. Padarn Beisrudd ap Tegid is generally translated as “Padarn of the Red Coat, son of Tacitus”. I do not speak Welsh, much less Middle Welsh, so I will trust the translation entirely.
Now, depending on where you look, this man plays completely different roles in History. To say the mentions of him are a “hot mess” would be an understatement. In terms of actual archaeology, all we have is the epithet and his origin – the theories on who he was or what he did are entirely up to historians. The usual consensus is he was a Celtic man given a high rank in a Roman legion.
This is fair enough, but… Why? The war on the Picts was long over, with Roman troops retreating back to Hadrian’s wall. What advantage could a high ranking Roman officer possibly offer by staying in the North whereas all the other soldiers had retreated? Isn’t it all a bit weird? Fringe theories range from “he fought the Picts” (even more unlikely – he’d be in severe disadvantage) to “he commanded the Votadini” (Picts).
“Ok but he was clearly the son of Tacitus, not Achiuir”. Indeed he was… Or was he? I’d say it is entirely possible that this Patron of the Red Cloak was simply a Pictish leader who engaged in diplomacy with Rome – something almost unprecedented, and so unbelievable that certain allies of the Picts (the Welsh) thought he must have a Roman father. This is of course, only my own theory. Crazy perhaps, but just as plausible as every other. We’re talking about an epithet anyway, not a name, so why should the surname be literal. One thing is for sure: there certainly are a lot of common themes. Talorc lived in the same time period (we’re given a range for this mysterious red cloak man, not a definite year), possibly same place (Talorc was buried, according to my confirmations, in the same region), he also claims to have favoured diplomacy over war, and of course wears a red cloak. Take your own conclusions.
Whether my assumption is correct or not, I don’t think anyone would mind if I “borrowed” the epithet for my own practice. It fits my guide, and it’s vague enough anyway.
In my view Talorc is more than a guide – he is family. I don’t make offerings, we dine together. It feels very weird to know he is royalty, and I am pretty sure a lot of people will judge me for sharing this detail. The reason I share it in public is very simple, though: there is no way to present you confirmations without mentioning what his job was. Ultimately, it is a job, and makes him no better or worse than any other spirit. We just happen to be very close – this was always true, even before I knew his name.
Sometimes he will visit and cooperate with consenting witches. If you ever happen to see him and he helps you, feel free to make an offering. Speaking from experience, Picts usually appreciate nuts and ale (or local equivalent), heather, milk thistle (British Isles only! Don’t go spreading invasive species…), or honey. For kings and other diplomats, offering wine is always a good idea. Forget every single-use container, pollution is never a respectful offering. Last but not least, I know it is common practice to use your altar for occasional offerings to visiting spirits – Picts will not object to it. Go ahead if this is the only practical way for you. However, if you can, leave / pour it in nature (making sure the ingredients are local and non-harmful for wildlife).
Using natural altars is the best way I know of working with Picts. If you’re short on money, don’t despair: music, dance, storytelling or a prayer are as valid as any other offering – especially for the Picts, as they are always up for partying.
To summarise it all, although myself and Talorc have always been close – even when I spent years denying my path – I have always had mixed feelings about the idea of a royal spirit guide. Sure there are advantages to it (especially when it comes to confirmations!) and it all sounds very cool, but as a kid who grew up among very self-centered people, I tend to avoid leadership and competition like the plague. I was raised by people who had a bit of a delusion of grandeur and always wanted me to aspire to positions of status in society. Whereas there is a flip side to it – my family has a healthy relationship with money, for the most part – I just cannot bring myself to desire status as much as everyone else around me. I’m a bit of a black sheep, so to speak, so when I found out who my spirit guide was and what he did, it came as a shock.
He told me on one of these first interactions, “I know you have a prejudice against royalty and I understand it”. We both laughed. Still to this day there are some things he says that I wish I could unhear, but for the most part, I can see why he guides me. There are a lot of situations when I need to know how to stand up for myself, how to gain people’s respect and how to be heard. This is when he steps up, and I’m happy he is with me. Talorc doesn’t only help others through the means of magic, but he has a lot to teach in terms of life skills. From now on, I will be writing bits and pieces about the lessons he has for me, and hopefully, for the world too.