All Their Voices

Words and thoughts in devotion to the Divine


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Francisco Goya Was Right: The Sleep of Reason Breeds Monsters

Francisco Goya’s masterpiece

Last night I had a nightmare hideous beyond measure. I was somewhere back in my birth state of Iowa, having finally found a measure of financial security enough to buy and renovate an old farmhouse and barn to the witchy cottage I have always wanted–room for my books, my skulls, my herbs, my shrines, and a garden or four. After a day of basking in the sun while harvesting lavender and sage, and a visit from my daughters and grandsons, I was taking a nap on the front porch in my hammock.

You know how some nightmares go like horror movies, where the you that is dreaming can see much more of what’s going on than the you in the dream? The me having the dream watched while my kids made dinner and my grandsons played in the living room, and I began to see enormous spiders the size of fists, with poison stingers as well as fangs, as they started to emerge from the nooks and crannies of the house, along with centipedes as long and thick as king snakes, hornets the size of golf balls, and scorpions as big as cats. I woke from my hammock as a centipede slithered over my toes. I started screaming and went to jump down only to see that the porch was covered in creepy-crawlies.

My feet were bare. I was wearing a skirt.

I jumped down anyway, rushing to scream for the girls and grab up my grandkids. One of my daughters kept wanting to grab her purse and I knew there was a rattlesnake in it, I kept telling her to put it down. There were rats pushing books off the shelves with their bodies, big as German shepherd puppies, and the ground outside the house was a churning, writhing sea of hard, shiny, glistening black arthropod bodies and slithering glossy scales.

There was someone else in the house. I don’t know who. My age or a little older in appearance, with a white beard. Originally I thought it was my friend Chris, but then he slammed down a wooden walking stick and the ground quaked, ripping open, swallowing creatures whole.

That’s when I woke.

…no more dreams, please? If that was you, Old Man, I get the metaphor. You were there to save me and all I hold dear.

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Folk process or cultural appropriation

Druid Life

Last week I wrote about the right to be creative within your own folk tradition. Morgan Daimler flagged up to me that I need to tackle the other side, too – what happens when we mess about with other people’s traditions. Taking other people’s traditions, writing into them, or over them and presenting that as genuine material can have the effect of wiping out the tradition, not keeping it alive. How do you tell the difference?

Your relationship with the tradition is key here. If we’re talking about your culture, your family background, or the place you’ve lived your whole life as a participant not a coloniser, then you are someone who is inside the traditions around you. They are your traditions.

There are plenty of non-white British people engaging with British folk traditions, and that’s also fine. It’s important not to let this idea of who owns the tradition…

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Not a poem, but a personal interlude

The first contact that I had with Loki *that I am aware of* happened back in…2007? 2008? Around the same time I joined the Troth. One of the members of the Kindred I belonged to at the time suggested holding a Loki ritual, where each of us sacrificed/destroyed something from an old part of our life that still brought us pain.


We did it; what I got rid of was a thin, tiny silver ring that my first husband had bought for me. The abusive one.


That was really the start of my healing from that marriage. I do not forget what my ex did to me, at this point, and I don’t forgive, but these days I am no longer in a blinding rage every time I think of him, nor is the PTSD quite so bad. (I was very, very broken; it isn’t completely gone, and I doubt it ever will be, but…it’s ebbing, bit by bit).


Shortly after that was when Odin began to move into my life like a tsunami washing over a seashore. The signs were everywhere, and he was very persistent. It took a few years, but I acknowledged after some time that He owned me.


Then in 2013 my second/then-current marriage fell apart. My ex would never tell me why he demanded a divorce, only that he ‘had changed’, but these days, I think it might have had something to do with what I found out a couple years later, that he was seeing a girl on the side who was the same age as his son from his first marriage. She was 19, which means that, since he and I had been together for 14 years, she had been in kindergarten when he and I first met.


I got through it. These days, I don’t know if I could say how, other than one day at a time. I thought about killing myself, a lot. But I didn’t. (I won’t say I didn’t try, though. I just didn’t succeed.)


But here’s the thing: almost from the first, I suspected that a god had had a hand in the dissolution of my marriage. Specifically, I thought one had assisted in its breakup, at the least, because they felt, in some way, it was bad for me. And you know what? It was. I know a lot of things now I didn’t know then, when I was still stupid in love and didn’t care.


At the time, I suspected it was Odin who did the breaking up. I belonged to him, after all. It made sense that he would take steps to protect what was his.


But Loki is not called ‘Worldbreaker’ for nothing. I never would have ended that marriage on my own; I didn’t even see the need for it. I would have continued in that…mess forever, if allowed.


These days, at the least, I suspect that, if it wasn’t Loki on his own, it was him and Odin together.


There’s been a lot of change in my life over the last year and a half to two years. After four years of trying to scrape by on starvation wages in Indiana–and only managing thanks to the generosity of some of the best friends in the world, who gave me a helping hand when I needed it most–I moved to New York, and things have been better here. Not perfect. Not even great. But better, and working on making things better still.


Since accepting that Odin owned me, when asked, I have never been a Nokean. I gave offerings to Loki every time I offered to Odin, because the two are blood brothers, and that’s what it says in the lore that we have that Odin wants. But when asked, I was always very careful to say that I was not a Lokean. I didn’t hate him; I wasn’t afraid of him like some boogeyman (though admittedly I was properly cautious–as I am of EVERY god–because after all, they are GODS, and can destroy our worlds), but I was carefully respectful.


However, Loki has been coming on a lot stronger in the last…year or so?–and I think my times of saying “I’m not a Lokean” are at an end. I hear him in my head–not constantly, but very, very often–and he has helped me work through a number of things that I was having problems with. He is master of coincidental saves. To keep denying him after all the healing and growth he’s helped me with would be the greatest of ingratitude.


This is somewhat demonstrated by how much more I hear his voice, which manifests as all the new poetry I’ve been writing for him. As the title of my first poetry collection–Listening for Their Voices–suggests, I have always indicated that the poems I come up with are not really my own creations, but more of simply listening to their voices and writing down–as elegantly as I’m capable of–what I hear. He has been very conversational, and thus, inspirational, of late.


Can I be a Lokean that is also owned by Odin? I don’t know. Given the issues that lie between them, that’s a question I can’t answer on my own. I’ll turn to divination for an answer, from a seer I know and trust well. I don’t know how clear the answers I get will be–not because of the diviner, but because divination lends itself to multiple interpretations and can be ambiguous, just as prophecy and dreams (which it shares some similarities to) can be.
But regardless of the answers, or who (if either of them) was involved, my days of keeping Loki at arms’ length are over. It’s a shitty way to treat a friend, and he has been that and so much more to me.


I’m just lucky he loves us broken ones so much.

(Postscript: My belief for so many years that Odin was behind the end of my marriage was, in large part, the driving force behind my continued discomfort with Odin, and inability to completely trust him. It’s why I still haven’t taken an oath to him as fulltrui. Even if the marriage was bad for me, I loved my husband, and I was griefstricken at losing him. And honestly, I’ve never found it all that easy to trust people in the first place, not since my first marriage, and the betrayal by a couple of friends.

But contemplating that it might have been Loki who ended it…I don’t feel the same anger and mistrust. And I don’t know why.)


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Worldbreaker

Even writing this is a risk, I know.

It could be seen as an invitation,

expressly to him.

But aren’t all gods worldbreakers,

if they want to be?

When they need to be?

Some of them are just better known

for wearing that face.

I hear his whisper, soft and sibilant,

down near the bottom of my consciousness:

‘Think what you will, what you must.

No, I am not nice.

No, I am not safe.

I am not a cutesy child’s cartoon character,

no matter how some may paint me.

But what I do is necessary.

It is important.”

If not for him, we would stagnate

in our own inertia forever.

We do so love the status quo, don’t we,

even when it is killing us?

We fear that if we move, if we act to change things,

what we end up with may be worse,

even when what we already have

is so bad that we might as well

be dead already.

When he steps in, eyes narrowed,

scarred mouth grim,

his resolve steeled to change what we will not,

we know there will be tears.

We shake in dread at the mere thought

of what havoc he might wreak,

what things he will bring tumbling down

around our heads.

But when the wreckage settles,

when the smoke clears,

We have change,

whether we wanted it or not.

Because even when we don’t want it,

we need it.

When we don’t want it is when

we need it most of all.

Then he leaves us to rebuild,

not always without help,

but sometimes–

when we have to learn to stand

on our own two feet for a change,

when we have coasted along for too long.

I don’t welcome that side of him any more

than anyone would;

I’ve seen my world shattered

too many times to count already:

loved ones dying,

marriages ending,

lost jobs,

homes disappearing before I could blink.

I survived them all.

And it’s not right to blame him for what he does;

if we had the resolve, the courage to change things ourselves,

he wouldn’t have to do it for us.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to take.

All I ask, then,

if the time comes again to make my world collapse,

so that a new and better one might be born,

forgive me if I tremble in terror and anticipation of what you do,

and I ask you lend me the tiniest bit of your strength

so I might survive it once again.

I trust you to know what’s best for me,

because you know I never do.


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Dedicated

Hail,

lady of the lifelong secret;

You who whispered words to

the God of Poetry that said:

“I am Yours.”

Golden were the apples you placed

upon His shrine;

none who knew you, not family, not friends,

knew of your hidden devotion;

they thought your faith

and your worship only for

the desert god,

not He whose name and face had been

all but forgotten for centuries;

but to Bragi, wordsmith,

songmaster, skald,

you poured out your poems, songs, and prayers,

leaving the fruit His wife Idunn bore

to the Aesir and Vanir

as further offering to Him.

All your life, you paid homage to Him

in His own coin,

that which He liked best,

and only now, when you have passed beyond

to the hall of the poetry-maker,

Odin’s son,

do those who were closest to you

–and those who did not know you at all–

learn of the depth of your reverence and devotion to Him.

Therefore, sing, o skalds!

Praise her whose name we may never know,

but whose deeds shine bright as Sunna’s rays,

no longer hidden by stormclouds.

Sing, o skalds, for a life spent

in silent and secret adoration,

pour out mead in her memory,

she who sits among the bards and sages of the oldest times,

in the presence of He whom she honored.

Sing, o skalds, in honored awe

of one who gave us an example to emulate:

may we ever be as pious, as dedicated,

and as virtuous as Bragi’s most faithful.


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By the Sea

In the end, she chose me

because my feet were the prettiest

(to be honest, it had been awhile since fair Baldr,

who she really wanted, had trimmed his toenails);

it’s not a man’s feet that a woman looks at in bed,

nor what another man looks for, either.

So the mighty huntress was stuck with me,

and don’t think she was happy with that, you bet.

Even before she saw Nóatún, my sea-home, she found

little enough to like about me.

She wanted Baldr, but she might

have been satisfied with my son;

Freyr is not considered to look upon,

or share a bed with, either.

(My son and daughter weren’t thrilled with

the idea of a stepmother,

but they respected her well enough,

although she and Freyja were never going to

share any girls’ nights, no.)

But I am an old man, with grown children and a wife already;

I would not have agreed to take a second if

I found that thought a burden,

but all we did was fight.

She could not bear my home for

the shrieks of the gulls,

nor could I stand hers with the howls of the wolves.

Don’t get me wrong;

I don’t hate her, nor she, me;

we simply weren’t suited for each other.

Bu twe gave it a fair try,

then parted amicably enough.

She went on to bed Odin–

funny, they almost all do

(him and Jotun-maids, don’tcha know!)

–and had herself plenty of children,

big and strong,

and she seemed content with that.

As for me, I wager I learned something.

Having the prettiest feet is not necessarily an advantage.

Maybe I should let my toenails grow out a bit.