All Their Voices

Words and thoughts in devotion to the Divine


Leave a comment

From Blood, Inspiration

The dwarves killed me.

But they could not make me stay dead.

Fjalar and Galar carried only a candle each as they led me

into the darkest room in the depths of their house. The knowledge

that I shared to all was an affront to the dwarves, who keep

their secrets for themselves; perhaps they feared

that I had somehow found out what they knew, as well,

and would share it far and wide with the rest of the world.

And perhaps I did,

And perhaps I would have done.

They thought I did not know what they planned in that darkness,

the clubs they had waiting to crush my skull.

Maybe that was why they hurried so.

I went into the darkness of that deepest room

unafraid and calm.

I know that death is not the end.

Not for man, not for dwarf, not for alf or svartalf,

not for troll or Van,

not for the Aesir or the Jotun–

and not for those born of magic and circumstance, like me

–who rose up whole from chewed berries fermented with the spit

of the Vanir and the Aesir after they were born–

me, who was born in a way no creature before

was ever birthed.

Men themselves know this; they know

things live beyond their allotted times;

they know

of the gravewights, the draugr buried in their barrow-tombs,

moving uneasily under the weight of soil and stones,

and some nights coming out to walk.

It takes no special wisdom to know that life springs again

after death, for each creature in its own way.

And I knew that when they killed me

–(yes, I knew they planned to kill me)–

that I would go on to visit with my knowledge

to many, many others than I could ever reach on foot.

When my limp body had stopped twitching,

they hoisted me up onto a high shelf, positioned vessels

under my head,

and cut my throat to drain my blood, my life,

into vats and a single pot, catching every drop.

Every drop, every mote of me lived in that flood of red,

Though the empty vessel I left behind was of no import.

Then they stole bee’s gold from the waxen hives,

(Bygul they would have called it, as beauteous Freyja

might have called one of her cats),

and mixed that golden sweetness into the vessels.

It was there that the power of my life woke again,

making something richer and better than an ugly mixture

of thin red and thicker gold,

mixing, mingling, melding together,

and yes, making magic.

The dwarves did not fare well after my murder;

they felled the giant Gilling and his wife, but

Gilling’s son Suttungr learned of their treachery

and went to visit; through threats and violence and fear of death,

they at last convinced him

to take the wergild of the mead I had become for

the deaths of his parents.

Suttungr took the vessels to Hnitbjörg, where

his daughter Gunnlöð guarded over it;

and this is where Odin came

—most crafty, most wise—to take me away.

There have been questions about how he found me:

perhaps Mimir’s head told him of me,

or perhaps he learned of me in a view from Hliðskjálf,

or of me was by Heimdall told.

Or perhaps he just knew;

like calls to like, after all,

and he was the Highest of Aesir,

and of the spittle in that cauldron

when they made peace with the Vanir,

his was the most;

if Heimdall is said to have had nine mothers,

it could be said that I had mothers and fathers alike

in the dozens, the hundreds;

but of them all, he was chiefest.

Odin came upon nine workmen in a meadow,

himself disguised, new-named, cleverly deceiving,

and did them a service, pleasing them so well by it

that he tricked them with the tool of that service

into killing themselves,

leaving their master Baugi—

Suttungr’s brother, Gunnlöð’s uncle—

without the toil of those thralls

for the rest of his need.

So Odin—most crafty, most wise—

bargained his own labor to toil

for the feat

that he as Bölverk had done for Baugi,

that he as Bölverk had orchestrated the need for;

and named his price:

three swallows of the draught from his brother’s vats,

And Baugi agreed.

When the season’s strivings were seen,

he asked for the price he had been promised by Baugi—

and Suttungr refused to pay.

So Odin—most crafty, most wise—came, instead,

the long way, through a hole drilled into

the mountain Hnitbjörg in the form of a serpent,

to visit Gunnlöð.

Fair she was, and sweet she was, and welcoming she was.

And naive she was,

best-positioned she, who guarded over those vats,

and he charmed her with his smile,

his words,

his seeming,

and took her for three nights to her bed.

And so when Odin had seduced Gunnlöð,

she let him have three drinks;

a drink for each night;

But Odin drank deeper than any,

and with each drink he drained

one of those three vessels,

leaving them dry as old bone.

So father came to son,

and when an uproar rose,

he took another form

—not Bölverk, not serpent, but eagle—

and flew away.

So now I rest rightly in Asgard,

where Odin gives of me to Aes and man,

sparking the inspiration for poetry to those he gifts,

and if you have ever tasted of me

—even a sip,

a sip so small that only one tiny drop of me

one smallest of motes—

then that one tiny glittering gold and ruby drop—

swims still through your flesh and blood,

even if you tasted it years ago,

for I am with you always,

as I have shown you here today.


1 Comment

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.


Leave a comment

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.


1 Comment

Spoiled for Choice

Of course I love the broken ones.

I leave the shiny and the pretty and the shallow

for others who can’t accept anything

other than surface perfection–

perfect tools, perfect people.

Me ,I would much rather have someone

with a broken heart,

a body that betrays them,

a mind others might find flawed;

they understand what it is to be considered

‘less than’ in a world where you are expected to

          fit in,

          fit a mold,

          be fit;

they understand the scorn heaped on your head

when you don’t look or sound or act or think

exactly like everyone else;

they have worked out ways around

what the rest of the world sees as problems

and they only know as life;

          learned patience,

          learned humor,

          learned cleverness,

          learned ingenuity.

How could I not prefer them?

They are my children all,

my brothers and sisters,

my lovers, my friends.

Give me the one whose mind runs along different channels,

the man the world insists is a woman,

the one forever untrusting and heart-scarred

from mockery and abuse,

the boy whose legs won’t hold him upright,

the one who thinks sideways,

the old, the halt, the sick, 

the girl who walks in an eternal cloud of sorrow.

I am nowhere so eager to turn them aside or

throw these away as the rest of my

brethren might be,

even my blood-brother.

Instead, I know these to be the best of the best,

all the more devoted and loving

for having been turned away so many times,

all the more clever for having been derided as stupid,

all the more stubborn for having so many give up on them.

These are the companions I choose,

family not of blood but of love,

who love me despite those who label me as evil,

who pledge their loyalty even when all others warn

I will take advantage of their trust and do them harm.

It’s worth a laugh.

They call me the god of lies,

but what I ask from them is that they never lie to me

or to themselves,

for ours is a relationship built on

the razor edge of honesty,

and if you are to trust me,

then so too must I be able to trust you.

That is all I want, after so long,

an understanding between us,

and once we have that,

we may dance our way back to the edge of the abyss,

but I will never let you fall.


5 Comments

Loki’s Lost Children

Nobody ever asks me if I loved them.

When people talk about my children, they mention

the mount Odin gained from me,

the serpent that encircles the world,

the daughter who rules over the dead,

and the wolf that will devour my blood-brother

when all things end.

Very rarely do they think of those other children I sired,

laying with love in the arms of my wife,

begetting two sons within her body,

watching them grow up strong and swift and sound.

When they are mentioned, in learned debates,

it is only as an afterthought:

“He was bound with the entrails of one of his sons,

who was torn apart by the other,

after that one was transformed into a wolf.”

Never more than that.

No one talks about me watching the babes

slide from my beloved’s body,

wet with the fluids that they floated in,

watching them take their first breaths,

watching them open their eyes to see me for their first time.

They do not think of the first time I saw them

suckle at her breasts,

taking their strength from her,

cradled warm in her arms,

swaddled in soft blankets and crib-clothes,

taking their first steps,

saying their first words.

They do not think on their growing years,

playing alongside the sons and daughter of my friend Thor,

taking their occasional bruises and tumbles

as children sometimes do,

or coming to me for a hug when they finished their play,

and asking for a story of my travels with him

after dinner, before bed.

They call me ‘Trickster’.

They hardly ever think to call me ‘father’.

They do not think of how I screamed,

when my son Váli’s body began to twist, to sprout fur,

when he was transformed against his will

as I was held captive to prevent me from saving him;

no one thinks of how I shrieked when

they loosed him on his brother Nari,

flesh tearing, blood splattering the ground,

tearing his brother to shreds.

No one whispers about how I wailed

when one of those I had fought for,

worked with, laughed with,

loosed an arrow to destroy the remaining son,

my now wolf-son, covered in his brother’s blood.

No one speaks of how I wept when

they dragged me underground and bound me in place

with the entrails of the child I had created,

the boy who had looked up to me,

          trusted me,

          loved me.

Nor do they mention the screams of my

wife, my beloved Sigyn,

as she watched her babes so horrifically slaughtered.

In a world where there are those

who chose to punish a father

by destroying his children in such a manner,

and those who would honor such vile monsters,

how dare anyone call me evil?


Leave a comment

The Sound of Your Voice

Thunder is owned by Thor,

but You–

You are not a sunshine and rainbows sort of god, are you?

I hear you loudest,

feel you most strongly

on days of long rain and skies grey as your traveling cloak and hat,

hearing your voice in the hissing of water against the ground.

Those are the best days for study and quiet contemplation,

a blanket over my lap,

a cup of tea, a book,

candles flickering with flames like

the light in your single eye.

I surround myself with things that remind of of you:

maps and a walking stick for travel,

skulls and bones for death,

books for your insatiable desire for knowledge.

These things comfort me; I know when I see them, touch them,

that you are ever close.

Sometimes it is hard to discern what you would have of me,

other than everything:

you have said that you will never stop testing me,

and I have been told by others

that you say you love me,

and I cannot decide if I want either of those things.

Your love is its own form of bondage,

and I have chafed against your expectations of me

more than once;

They tell me I can tell you ‘no’,

but it has never felt that way to me;

I practice saying it inside my head,

and even just in practice,

in that place where there is no sound but is never silent

(So. Many. Voices!),

I can hear you laugh and laugh.

Why would I give up what is mine, you ask me?

Why would I let you go?    

Why indeed.

I only wonder if you refuse to release me

because you truly value me,

or because owning me has become

something of a habit,

just like a hoarder will refuse to part

with old receipts and broken tools,

and toys that might be fixed (with time and effort),

and books already read a dozen times–

a comfortable story, to be sure,

but no more to be learned there.

I have never been able to determine

whether I want to be owned or free;

I might have an easier time deciding

if I knew why you kept me.

I would be less inclined to tug at my collar

if I knew I was not just a habit,

gathering dust on a shelf somewhere

in the back of an unlit room.

Everything in my head is quiet now,

          is quiet now,

          is quiet now,

          is quiet:

The rain has stilled,

the book is set aside,

the candle gone out,

and if you are speaking to me now,

your voice is so quiet

I cannot hear it.   

How odd, to find that I miss it.

You have become a habit for me, too,

or maybe an addiction,

something I can no longer live without.

How odd.

How curious.

How wonderful.

I nestle into my warm blanket

and wait for the sound of the rain to return.


3 Comments

Revolutionary

Some gods just want to watch the world burn.

Sometimes I do.

And sometimes you handle that quite nicely

on your own.

A friend once said:

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

You aren’t all fools, though.

Some of you understand what is important.

Some of you know what’s worth fighting for.

(Not the things that most of you think are worth

fighting for, though.)

I plot and I scheme, but do not call me oathbreaker:

I leave that for the likes of the one-handed one

and my dear blood brother.

I work to wreck:

I bring down the old,

the entrenched,

the corrupt,

the status quo–

those that would sit surrounded

by ill-earned gold

and stolen power

while others starve;

who feast and run roughshod

over those of humbler means and miens–

as if they deserve their bloody spoils

and lofty towers.

Do my words sting, cut, bruise,

bleed, burn, break?

Good.

Speak truth to power!

You humans love that one, and

so many other well-worn slogans, like:

“Comfort the afflicted; afflict the comfortable.”

Do you think it is my job merely

to caper and prance for your amusement,

to wear a red suit and play the devil

for that other faith you never quite outgrew?

To make a mock of the bawdy and the bloated and the blatant,

the caricatures of other gods–

just not the ones you like?

If so, you never understood me at all:

you can call me outcast,

that much is true enough,

but dare not think I am the only one.

Hundreds flock to take shelter under my banner,

the lost and forlorn,

those whose love or form

do not fit what you think is ‘right’,

the poor, the sick,

the mad, the maimed, the mocked,

all the children you have cursed

with your spite and your greed and your disgust–

they are mine now.

My family, to take the place of the ones you murdered,

and my army.

They—and I—will not sit down and shut up.

We will not be silent.

We will SCREAM!

We will be heard.

And we will win.


Leave a comment

Daïs Hetaerus

They call you ‘Friend of Man’,

and though you are not human,

have never been human,

Still you understand us poor mortals

better than the others of your family.

Though you of Mount Olympus

are called the Deathless Ones

still you understand our fear of death

and you are kind to us–

save in cases of human evil

where kindness is not called for–

when you come to escort us away,

after our last breathing moment,

to our destination beyond

the gates of Ivory and Horn

to Hades’ domain.

You alone of all the Olympians

understand humor,

as your first utterances show

–to brother Apollo,

when he confronted you for stealing his cattle–

and you know well how important a laugh can be

to help lighten our heavy loads.

You understand the need for theft

when hunger and privation and poverty

threaten to tear body from soul

and we would sell the very flesh off our bones

for a mouthful of bread–

if not for us, then for our children.

Not for nothing are you called ‘God of Thieves’,

and perhaps for you, theft is more about

the joy of the challenge

than any hunger-driven need,

but still, you show your favor

to those who pray to you

in those moments of extreme desperation.

You taught me the value of persistence,

even through pain;

You taught me to keep going,

even when all hope is gone.

You taught me the reasons

a closed mind can be a death sentence.

And you taught me the only appropriate response

for certain kinds of stupidity is laughter.

The miasma of human things

does not touch your incorruptible self,

but above all others, I think,

you understand us woebegone

and ridiculous human beings,

and for that, I will always

be grateful for the time spent in your company,

always pour out libations to you,

just as two friends might get together for tea,

thank you for your aid,

tell you how things have been,

wonder the same of you,

and always

            always

            always

call you Friend.

For Hermes.


Leave a comment

Gangleri

No road so long

you haven’t walked it;

no path so obscure

your feet have not trod it.

One never knows where one might find wisdom

in your wanderings.

You keep Your eye open,

and you walking stick ready,

and your stride is strong and swift.

I do not know you

–none of us really knows you—

but there are some things you allow us to understand,

and that there is no trail you will ignore

for fear of missing

the knowledge it might lead to,

that is one thing you have given us to know.

You might meet challenges on the road,

but they are hardly threats,

and those, too,

offer up their own sort of wisdom.

Those who know only of this face of yours

might think you spend

your entire life on the road,

and they would be wrong,

but if the tales are even half-true,

they are not wrong by much,

and it is a worthy attainment.

The roads whisper your name

from the mouths cracked into the pavement

and the cobblestones

and the dust;

they know who owns them

(as we all do)

and when your son’s thunder roars overhead

and the rains pour down,

the hiss of the water against the road

is a prayer to you,

a hymn to your will and your seekings,

and that prayer is one

we all sing in our hearts

every time we emulate you

when our feet touch down

on a path

–no matter if new or old—

to walk it to where we must go.


Leave a comment

Ode to Pan

Let me honor you with my fear,

o Lord of the woodlands and meadows.

Goat-footed god, great Pan, Hermes’ son,

there is wisdom in your wildness,

and ecstasy to be found at your revels,

but all the libations poured out to you

are less a fitting tribute than that primal terror

you engender,

setting the heart to roaring

and the skin to grow cold.

I taste metal streaking my tongue,

the song of adrenaline and cortisol,

a thunder in the ears akin

to the pounding of drums.

No matter how steady my feet have been

on the forest path,

when my mouth goes dry and

my breath comes quick,

I know it is reverence for you,

ripped from my bosom

even when there is no obvious cause—

no bear or wolf to menace with claw and fang,

no strange sound, sourced in silence,

no bolt of lightning or earth shaking beneath my feet,

only terror,

raw and relentless,

climbing up my throat from

my heart and my gut.

Great god Pan,

accept that offering that I bring you,

the gift of fear that you, in turn, give to me,

a gift for a gift,

given to the giver,

the respect and awe that I have for you,

and let my cries rise up to you.