Over breakfast today, an idea came to me; whether it’s something I came up with on my own, or whether inspired by the gods, I’m not certain. Nonetheless, it’s an excellent idea, so I’m going to go with it. It occurred to me, as I was munching my apple, that there’s so much about the deities I follow that I don’t know. More than that; there were plenty of deities within the pantheons I follow that I don’t know at all. Oh, I might know their names…but that’s it. And that’s simply not acceptable. Not to me, and, I suspect, not to Them. So. For the next 12 months, I will be working on a new project, so to speak. At least once a month, I will choose a deity from one of the pantheons that I follow and write a poem for Them. This gives me, at base, four weeks to write a poem, for a total of 12 new poems at year’s end. This is a goal that, between my depression and my health issues and my financial issues and my other responsibilities, I feel I can meet. Two poems a month/a poem every two weeks would be even better, and might be do-able if circumstances are kind. I won’t commit to that, because I know that they are NOT always kind, and I refuse to break this oath, but if it can be done, I’ll do it. (Divination on whether I should do two poems for the same deity, if I can manage two in a month, or whether I should do one poem for two deities? Answer: I got the rune Jera, harvest. I interpreted this to mean that the harvest would be greater if I’m honoring two deities in a month, rather than one. This is, after all, a way of introducing myself to those gods I don’t know, a beginning effort that will be fleshed out later on with more devotional work, such as offerings and libations; therefore, introducing myself to two gods instead of just one is a greater harvest. And since a harvest takes a year, and I have oathed to do this for a year/12 months…I don’t think I could ask for a clearer answer than that.) The initial rune I drew in divination when I first set out to ask whether I should do this was Berkano — rebirthing, new beginnings, receiving of offerings (“Taking Up the Runes”, Paxson, p. 180, paragraph 4, a paraphrase of a quote from Gundarsson). I think all those signify for the idea. So, I’ll start on Imbolc — February 1st — and since Imbolc is originally devoted to Brigid (whom I know well), I’ve chosen to go with an Irish goddess I don’t know for my first month: Flidais. When I’ve written the poem, I’ll post it both here and at my FB. It’ll also go into the growing collection that will eventually come out as my second poetry collection (though that is very likely a couple years into the future). Hail to the gods and goddesses! I hope You accept the fruits of this endeavor, which are meant to please and honor You!
I’ve been writing poetry for a long time.
The first that I can remember is all the way back in second grade. My teacher had all the students in her class sit down to write a poem describing a subject by sensory impressions and personal metaphor (e.g., “Love is like…”) Then the poems were all bundled up into a book–yay for mimeographs!–and handed out to the parents on parent-teacher night.
That was in 1974.
I received a lot of encouragement for my poem. And, as seven-year-olds will do, I absorbed it as greedily as a sponge absorbs water. I wrote more poetry at the time, mostly limericks and haiku (because they were short, obviously), but none of those have survived.
I still have the original book from second grade, though.
It isn’t very good, but I never forgot about it. My next major stab at poetry came five years later, in seventh grade. Once again, it was for a school project–this time, for the seventh-grade school newspaper. Inspired by MAD magazine, Spike Jones records, and Saturday Night Live, I wrote a number of humorous and satirical poems that, while my classmates loved them, didn’t meet with the approval of the nuns at St. Joseph’s (it was a parochial school). I probably shouldn’t have set out to mock TV and the American Flag and Jesus. I didn’t realize I was being radical at the time; I was just trying to be funny.
After that, I took a break from poetry until the sophomore year of high school, when I set out to write some poems for the school lit magazine. Given that I was going through a fairly depressing period at home at the time, these were fairly dark, many of them dealing with themes like being outcast at school, parental oppression, and suicide. They’d be considered emo today, but back then, all that happened was daily visits to my guidance counselor and more than a few parent-teacher conferences.
But at that point, the die was cast. There were no more long breaks between poems; it was seldom that I went longer than a week without writing. I was writing other things, too–short stories, novelettes, and a truckload of fanfic (well before the invention of the internet, mind you…I wrote in a number of shared-universe settings with my best friend, and together we explored the worlds of Star Wars, original series Star Trek, the X-Men comics, Indiana Jones, the SF TV series V, and a conglomerate sword & sorcery world incorporating the characters of Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja, Krull, Labyrinth, Ladyhawke, and the Sword and the Sorcerer.)
Due to a filing cabinet theft during the summer break between my first and second years at college (the filing cabinet was in storage in the cellar of my apartment house, and it was taken contents and all; I wouldn’t have minded losing the cabinet itself so much if they’d left the contents, which contained eight years’ worth of writing, drawing, and newspaper/magazine articles), I don’t have much of my original poetry from my early years left. Only the few things that had made it into school lit magazines and newspapers remained.
All there was left to do was keep going.
My poetry didn’t begin to take a turn toward matters of religion until my mid-thirties, with the first poem I wrote about Persephone, titled “Pomegranate”. I knew even as I was writing it that something about that poem was different; instead of making things up in my head like always, it was as if I was listening to someone else tell me their story, and just writing it down for them.
It was sufficiently unsettling that, while I kept writing poems, I didn’t write any other poems about the gods for almost two years.
The one that followed that was “Herne”, a long (especially for me) eponymous poem about the horned one that emerged from one of Shakespeare’s plays and is thought by some to be a later survival of the stories of Cernunnos (given the etymological links between the two names). That one was snatched up for publication in the devotional anthology “Hoofprints in the Wildwood”, by Gullinbursti Press, a little while after I wrote it.
More poems followed: on Theseus and the minotaur, on Artemis, about Apollo and Helios. As the number of deities I honored expanded from just the Hellenic pantheon, so did the poems I wrote explore new territory: Brigid and the Morrigan, Odin and Thor, and then too many to count.
Some of these have been published. This is a good thing, in my eyes–not because I crave public acclaim, but because any time I can share my impressions of the Gods with others, it counts as a good day for me. Currently, my work has made it into the ADF magazine Oak Leaves, the Troth’s magazine Idunna, Neokoroi’s newsletter He Epistole, fourteen different devotional anthologies, and now, my own first volume, Listening for Their Voices.
Nobody gets rich off writing poetry; that isn’t why I do what I do. As someone who’s labored under a fairly severe inferiority complex (and all the self-confidence issues that go along with it) all my life, I wondered for a long time what it was that the gods wanted from me. I thought I had nothing to offer them. Then a friend pointed out to me that I had apparently been chosen to tell their stories and spread their word — not proselytization, but simply to give what I had to give. To offer what I was (apparently) somewhat good at.
And you know what?
I’m good with that. I’m glad I have something to offer Them. I’m perfectly happy to be Their tool. If I can be of use to Them, then I want to be used.
And if someone does read work I wrote and find their way to the Gods through that? (Unlikely, but not completely impossible.)
Then I’ve done what I wanted with my life, and when my life is over, I can die happy with the knowledge that my life was not a waste of time.
Hail the Gods! Hail the spirits! Hail the Ancestors!
I dance the dance of defending:
wild cultures crushed beneath the heel
of a monoculture dedicated to grinding out
any spark of piety reverence truth
those fighting minds may know:
the poor the weak the old
the young the disabled the different
gay and trans, mentally ill,
illiterate, the dying:
all worth less than dogspit
in this cesspit of a society we live in.
I dance the dance of making:
joyous fire kindling the sweet smoke of incense
libations poured out, wine splashing the feet of the gods
wet clay shaped with deft fingers to show their faces
the scent of beeswax as we dip candles for offerings
voices raised in ecstatic song—
all we create for the Gods.
I dance the dance of sundering:
casting aside unjust ideas
stomping the bones of the Only True Way into the dust
because we know the only true way
is respect and love and trust
in those Who made us
and each of us dances that dance differently.
I dance the dance of ordeal:
poverty misery suffering violence
agony ostracization madness deprivation
all things we suffer when we stand
tall and proud and brave for our gods,
refusing to turn away from Them
refusing to accept the god of the usurpers
refusing to deny the existence of Those
whose power and might take our breath away.
may we find bravery in our knowledge
may we know courage in our experience
may we have the strength to stand strong
against those who would break us hurt us kill us
because we see with unveiled eyes.
hands slapping thighs
sweat beading on brow
heart pounding like hammer on anvil
lips a snarl
voice raw with emotion
this soul this fire
this grief this pain
this vigor this ecstasy
this love all-encompassing:
I am Your tool. Use me as you will.
Reblogging not for any readers I have, because I have none, but so that I will be able to come back and easily find it in the future.
Polytheism is the reverence for and belief in many Deities as independent, sentient Powers. It often goes hand in hand with veneration of one’s ancestors and reverence for the living world, a sacred locus full of its own type of spirits. I have often said in past writing that the moment one realizes that the world really is full of Gods, that everything is alive reflecting and reverencing Them, and that it is fully possible to experience the Powers directly, it changes everything. It cracks the lens through which we’ve been patterned to see the world. It disrupts the mental machinery that dictates what is ‘normal’ and ‘right.’ It rips us out of our pre-patterned mediocrity and demands that we wake up, stand up, open up and become *more*.
I had a student once, a polytheist who was taking one of my ancestor workshops and after several weeks in the…
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