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.


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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.)


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.


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

For Educational Purposes

What have I learned in Your keeping?

 

My grasp of the mysteries of the world

is no deeper than the film of motor oil

on the surface of a puddle of rain.

 

My desire to cease existing is neither

unique nor necessarily a surprise,

but my life does not belong to me,

but to you, and I should not destroy

or throw away that which is not mine.

 

I have found that there are more things

linked to you than I knew

–indeed, almost everything in the universe

seems to bear your signature upon its soul.

 

But also, finally, that all these defects may

be remedied if only I continue to draw breath,

feel the sun on my face, hear the wind at night,

and continue to exist in your service.


Leave a comment

To Odin

I don’t want to follow in your footsteps:

I recognize I am too weak for the

sacrifice of well and tree.

This does not mean I have not known pain

in my lifetime, only that I do not, cannot,

compare it with yours.

And yes, there is fear—

how could there not be?

I think of all that you are and quake;

You are not exactly known for your kindness.

A friend writes that it is a folly

to think that the Gods do not care for mortals.

Not all gods will concern themselves

with all humans, of course—

they take an interest in just certain ones,

just as we mortals may take an interest

in a favorite actor or author or painter,

or even a sports team.

We do not know why you choose

certain of us, of course;

for the most part,

You’re not telling,

and it would be rude (and dangerous!) to pry.

Now, saying that the gods care for us

is not the same as saying that they defer to us,

nor would I wish it so;

that is not the natural order of things.

What I mean is that it is natural to be afraid of you,

from time to time,

just as I would fear an earthquake,

or a tornado

or a wildfire

or a hurricane—

forces of nature, all so much greater in power than I,

and unpredictable,

with unguessable motivations,

smashing down boundaries,

ignoring the desires of the venal and greedy

and lazy and weak

(and sometimes the strong and the humble

and the dedicated and the committed, too),

and generally doing whatever must be done

to achieve their goals.

 

No, I don’t want to follow in your footsteps,

but I want to be of use.

I want to learn.

I know my fear has thrown up a wall between us—

no wall could keep you out

if you did not permit it to,

but I think, perhaps, you let it stand,

maybe to see how long I would go,

allowing myself to remain apart from you

(in my fear, or maybe my stubbornness),

before at last I cracked.

 

Longer than I should have,

but less time than it could have been, I guess.

I’m tired of—well, not fighting,

because I can’t hope to fight you—

but of struggling,

like a small fish trapped in an unbreakable net.

 

If you will still have me,

if I have not exhausted your patience,

(I do not delude myself that I could make you angry,

You who have faced down giants and trolls

and monsters without a qualm,

but neither do I think your patience is endless),

 

If you will still have me,

here I am.


Leave a comment

Guardians

I look for your messengers

–your Thoughts and your Memories–

for seeing them lets me know

You are still watching over me.

You leave me to walk my own Wyrd.

That does not mean you are uninterested

in what happens to me,

but you have never been my babysitter,

nor my parent, nor my watchman.

I am not supposed to lean on you,

constantly begging, making demands;

from time to time I talk to you,

and some of those times, I lament problems

I may have encountered,

but I have never asked you to wave a magic wand

and make everything magically all better.

This is why it is so heartening to see them there,

perched on that line every day as I

walk home from work;

just two ravens, no more, no less,

and I think always the same two,

peering down at me in curiosity,

and then flying off to report what they have seen

once I have passed.


Leave a comment

Shared Wisdom

From Hliðskjálf you see down

through every realm, every land, every home.

You who have drank of Kvasir’s mead,

you who gave your eye to Mimir’s well,

and who hears his head whisper to you in the night,

you who hung on the tree for nine days and nine nights,

pierced through with Gungnir:

I know of no other with the depth of wisdom you possess.

Yours are the answers to all my questions;

Yours is the knowledge of man and beast and tree,

ocean and mountain and fire.

You were present from the time that the universe was licked

from the ice by Audumhla and Ymir,

High, Just as High, and Third,

Hrafngud, Ganglieri, Haptaguð, Olgr, Uðr,

I know nothing in comparison with you,

but I know enough to know that it is wisdom

to ask for your guidance,

that I may benefit from the wisdom

you have spent all your existence acquiring,

and if I am most fortunate,

you may even grant it.


Leave a comment

A Plea to Odin

How many times has the thought of failing you

brought me to tears, my Lord?

I fear I will never be good enough to serve you

as you should properly be served.

I have no shame to kneel before you and

acknowledge you as my greater;

Humans are not the equals of the gods.

Many times I have let my weaknesses lead me astray:

Distracted by mortal concerns,

mortal weariness,

mortal woe;

I regret that my focus on you and yours is not as strong as I wish it was.

Desires are ever stronger than willpower, I have long known.

Nevertheless, I pray you, do not forget me, do not forsake me;

If my spirit is willing and my flesh is weak, let my spirit

be the teacher that will lead my flesh to be stronger for you.

As I grow older, and older yet still,

do not think that I have forgotten you;

as the vicissitudes of the flesh bring me pain, exhaustion, illness,

I do not suddenly give you up

in the thought that such a betrayal will make things easier;

I know my destiny, my wyrd, and from beginning to end,

it lies with you.

I honor other gods, true;

The bloody queen of Ireland,

Her fire-shaping healer-poet cousin,

the swift-footed trickster of Greece,

and that land’s lady gardener,

the siblings of the Vanir,

and your own blood-brother

(despite that more cowardly and spiteful men

say I should spurn him),

but I am owned only by you.

I do not mistake you for fictional representations of you,

though I can see the echoes and ghosts of you in those

that the creators and actors tried to summon.

I ask only that you understand my failings–

not forgive them, as I do not ask for forgiveness,

and I am strong enough, at least, to own my failures–

and give me the chance, always, when my mortality drags me down,

to keep on striving to be worthy of you,

or as worthy as any mortal can hope to be.

I know you will never stop testing me,

and I can only hope that some day,

I will pass the test and thereby please you.