A Visit to Ys



Collaboration with Selim Helsinki publication on Ys, the lost city reflecting contemporary issue.

A Visit to Ys

I was given a chance to visit Ys, the city which we thought once lost into the sea.
Yes, it is still there, the old Breton nation, a remnant of the Celtic Otherworld - where past, present and future are fused together, apparently.
Several gateways to the Otherworld exists.
“If you look closely along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean,
search for the caves under the cliffs which have seemingly no ends,
notice the slits between the lime-formed rocks,
how they form an angle with where the standing stones are pointing at...”
I was told.
Directing myself after all those clues my sight was drawn back to the horizon.
There appeared to be a shadow in the sea.
It must just be some mirages like other fiction described, I thought.
But the line of horizon suddenly approached my vision, breaking my perception of space.
The line drew closer and closer, and blurred away the sea.
Slowly, that shadow I saw earlier, revealed itself, as a topography of an evenly portioned natural landscapes and settlements.
I guessed it was Ys.

This is how you got acquainted with the Ys experience.
How straightforward it sounds. Thousands of adventurers went for their search of the miraculous but did not go as lucky as you. Perhaps you never had an attitude quite the same. You never saw the urge of seeking an other world. It then came to you instead.

Ys was in a distance from me, semi-covered in mists arisen from the sea. The sun was setting behind the mists brushing Ys in a pale gold. I found my feet on a thick pile of washed-up kelps, still damp. A fishing boat rocked nearby and I asked the man on it if he could take me to that shadowy place ahead. He said he lived there. He was going to return after gathering the last few batches of seaweed from the sea.

‘I can smell the storm coming,’ he muttered.

He sensed it from the humidity before I noticed the mild breaking waves. Now this really triggered a series of imaginations in my mind - am I here, back in time, right on that night when the devil disguised as the red knight, came to woo the princess? Who would not be able to leave because of the storm? Following the legend’s storyline, the princess would then sneak into the King’s bedroom and steal his keys…

Princess and King! Some stories that Saint Winwaloe left behind I bet. Words of mouth, passed down through superstitious filters and here we are today.

‘Before guessing what is in your head, let me reassure what you are thinking is not going to happen.’

He sounded like I was not the only stranger whom he’s ever picked up from this shore and dealt with their confused looks. He took no interests in where I came from either.

‘Whatever your version of the story is, a storm is a storm, cyclical movement driven by the cosmos. It doesn't bring along anything good or evil. It doesn't give meaning to any apocalyptic consequences.
We, the citizen of this shadowy land, take in whatever the nature presents us and make the best out of it. I am grateful to all the gifts from the sea. And tomorrow I shall continue to work hard and live my days.’

Startled by his words, I asked the calm wise man, ‘are you a d-druid?’

‘I call myself a farmer,’ he softened. ‘I farm seaweed, understand plants, learn the ecology behind, read the weather, taste the acidity of water, design the farming tools. Why? Because depending on these I can survive, as everyone needs to. Economical concern is the prime. The more we KNOW about adapting the environment the higher chance of survival. Druid is just an idea.

‘An idea in which case one strives to become a knowledgeably respected person, self-made, self-empowered, self-educated through developing their individual specialities and performing their roles within the society, rather than a static class member.’

Rather than a mystical figure who holds supernatural powers.

‘Where there are wise words will attract listeners. There has never been an obligation to ‘preach’ or be ‘followed’. If you want to follow someone’s practice, go to the priest. Druids aren't priest. Druids aren't interested in power.

‘Every once in awhile mutation occurs with one societal member suffering from power struggle. They play ‘leaders’ by spreading words about things they know, in the name of preaching, and marginalise others who do not agree with them, as I understand.’

The tides rose, as if they were pushing the boat desperately to the direction of Ys. It was officially dusk. The city lit itself. The profile of buildings were less evident, but the lights were sharp and focused -

For it is telling you, the form and shape of things aren't of the city’s interest. It knows its place, where the lights are, where the shadows sink.

The sea waves continued to hit the boat. Each strike of the wave, each swing of the boat. The strike. The swing. The lights of the city seemed to glow with the rhythm too. The higher the tides, the stronger the glow.

This is no illusion at all, my dear. Ys is lit by tidal energy. Each dwelling has its own tidal power unit. Everyone is equally served by nature. There’s no magic, yet you can always be hypnotised by nature’s pattern.

We arrived at the pier, I farewelled the farmer. Immediately I reached the centre of town surrounded by clusters of wooden houses. Streets, sometimes alleyways were defined by the boundaries of these organically arranged houses most of which were extended by ground floor verandas. The definition of threshold was obscured; whether the spaces I walked through were public or private I did not know. Live and work unit were probably mixed too. Weavers, woodcraftsman, leather makers and cheesemongers, calmly finishing off their work at this time of the day, were visible at street level. Looking up the second and third storeys were other men and women, carefully removing clothes from the drying line. People’s lives were somewhat transparent that it was impossible for me to picture orgies or killings in this place, recalling from the legends.

So I heard.
Dahut was my great, great, great grandmother. She wasn't any princess or Royal figure, but a daughter and inheritance of a large landowner in Ys. She owned a lot of housing plots, farms and woodlands of Ys. Her family supplied the community wheat, fresh water and wood. She received gifts from her tenants in return. Eggs from husbandmen, wool from shepherds, jewelries from blacksmiths and so on. It is what you may understand today as barter exchanges.

For hundreds of years Ys has shut itself out from the world in order to protect against foreign occupation. Since Roman’s frequent attempts to rule over our land, Ys was vulnerable and bounded to doom in days. When Saint Winwaloe invaded my ancestors were forced out from their lands. Gradlon, one of the warriors who fought to against the conquerors, took an oath to keep Ys safe from being converted into a different hegemony. He and the citizens of Ys worked with tides to hide the place from the outside world, turning this place legendarily swallowed into the sea.

A closed circle economy developed and has functioned until today. It is a place self-sustaining through autarkic practice of working with nature.

I am afraid this is all I know, as you see my bloodline had lost ties with the city long time ago.
About Morvarc'h, Dahut’s beloved horse, which your world believed
as a solution to fight against Trojans
spreading around digital infrastructure,
in Ys as you might hope to encounter,
I am sorry to hear it did not appear.