The dark forests are calling;
they sing to my soul.
The draw is so strong;
it beckons me to come,
to step into its shadowy embrace
and to disappear.
To make my way,
or to make an end to things,
to let go of the pains of the flesh,
the pangs of the heart,
the pallid desires of mere mind,
and give over my earthly remains to the earth.
The song is so strong.
I can smell moss and leaf loam,
fungus and flowers, rain if I rest.
No more struggle, only sleep.
No more sorrow, only solitude.
No more loneliness, only love,
as the forest loves all things
it gathers into its embrace.
Love, as it loves deer and fox,
owl and snake, oak and fern, vine and thorn.
Shall I walk into those woods,
and make my last bed, and lie in it?
You weren’t speaking to me —
or were You?
“I will never stop testing you.
Be strong or be broken.”
I wasn’t the one standing in front of the seidhkona,
but nonetheless, it felt like
the words were directed at me also.
And I understand.
I try to be strong, but since I have no courage,
I must at least be honest:
I am afraid,
And I have been broken for a long time now.
You can hardly claim no agency there;
One of the things You did
to claim me was to take away
one of the things that meant the most to me,
and in doing so, You shattered me:
shattered my joy,
shattered my peace,
shattered my hopes,
shattered my trust.
You broke me, and sometimes I think
You wanted me broken —
and without anyone but You.
This, I think, would be in keeping
with all I know of You —
You do not like to share,
although You will if You have no choice.
I am left with no choice,
and I suppose that this is how
You have arranged things.
And I have become accustomed to this;
But sometimes I wonder how
things might have been
if You had not decided
that I would become one of Your belongings,
leaving me with no choice
but to be strong
to be broken.
There is a well at the foot of a tree.
The well is very old.
It is cold stone, dank, mottled with lichen,
scarred by the hands of time.
It has never felt the light of day.
It is not of human make;
its mouth is crudely chiseled,
not rimmed with brick or brass or wood.
The water within is cold, and black, and deep.
It tastes of salt.
It tastes of iron.
It tastes of blood.
Those that drink of its waters
find themselves irrevocably changed.
The well is old.
But the tree is older.
It claws ragged branches skyward,
piercing through nine worlds.
The bark is gnawed by squirrels;
the roots, by a serpent.
Ash the tree is, untouched by insects;
in the highest branches lives an eagle,
and among its roots coils a dragon.
The tree is the life of the worlds,
and all who dwell therein.
Without the tree, there is nothing–
no squirrel, no eagle, no serpent,
no dragon, no well, no water,
no worlds, no gods, no man,
I rise as the sun rises:
I stretch out my arms to the horizon.
My thirst is as the world’s thirst–
scorching as the desert,
Deep as the most cavernous gorges.
Dry, dryer, dryest.
I call for my cup,
my cup of sweet blood;
Bring me my cup.
This cup of sweetness and intoxication;
I will let my senses swim.
Hot blood, sweet meat do I desire,
But bring me my cup,
and I will drown this thirst
as the sun goes down,
and then I will sleep.
This hunger, this need, this growing seed:
this is life.
It claws, it bites, it fights,
and it will not be denied.
Call it fertility,
whether the urge drives grain or kine or man;
Call it creativity:
reap the harvest of song and dance and verse.
Call it what it is:
all things stretch out fingers, tendrils, root
toward that which is at once
source and goal.
Branches reach out and up toward the sun,
wooden talons piercing the sky.
Fox and vixen couple and spawn a clutch of kits,
pups that will grow, chase their prey, feed,
and go on to take mates of their own.
There is no life without growth, without change;
take those away, and though one might still breathe,
still feed, still sleep, still – even – dance,
what remains is nothing but death.
In that growth, that change, the energy that we are
passive potential becomes primal power,
the source and the shape becoming the sum
of all that we are, and what we might,
like the butterfly emerging from its chrysalis,
turn into, once all our struggles and strivings
change impossibility into infinity.
“Twa Corbies’, Steeleye Span
(c) Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
We think when there is no one else to think.
We remember when no one else can.
That knight, murdered,
his body hidden behind the old fallen wall:
Only his hound, his hawk,
and his wife knew where he lay;
they, and his killer,
(The man who murdered him was his wife’s new lover, by the way.)
Sure, we fed; I ate his eyes.
I’m a raven, after all.
What would you expect me to eat, oats?
And yes, we plucked the golden hair
from his head to pad our nest:
(Muninn was ready to lay a clutch of eggs.
We are ravens, after all.)
But when we had eaten, and taken what we needed,
we took one other thing from him:
the knowledge of his situation.
And this we carried with us,
back to Valhalla, back to the Allfather,
and there we shared it with him,
and then there was one more who knew
of the man’s murder.
What he did with that knowledge is,
of course, his secret.
We are ravens, after all.
But perhaps not just ravens.
Lurking in the shadows of the woods,
I see You there, Silvanus,
running with the deer,
standing guard over the badger’s sett,
Your face dappled with light
where thin rays of sun
break through the cage
of the smallest branches of the treetops.
Your crown is oak and ivy,
Your brow garlanded with these sweet leaves;
singing birds flit in a halo round Your head,
and You walk barefoot through
the thickest tangles of thorn and briar.
The fox is lulled to sleep in Your lap,
the bear sleeps curled up at Your feet,
and the serpent twines round Your ankles,
unmoved to bite and share his venomed kiss.
All the forest opens to You,
wild god, fierce god, great god,
sharing with You its secret heart,
and You, its secret heart.
There is field,
and there is forest.
The field leads up to the forest,
and green gives way to green;
the forest is a darker green,
kin to black,
the dividing line quite clear.
The birds in the woods fall silent as I approach;
Robin, swallow, starling, and sparrow all fall silent
as I step off the soft grasses
and step onto softer mosses.
Instantly, I am enveloped:
around me tower tall oaks,
tall pines, beech, maple;
their scent fills my nostrils–
rich resins, the heady smell of decaying leaves,
the sweet greenness of herbs:
a very particular sort of magic.
Silence lasts for but a moment,
and then the music of the woods returns:
the songs of birds,
the soughing of branches in the wind,
the rustle of deer and squirrels moving between the trees.
I listen to the songs,
listen to what the wind and trees and birds
have to tell me;
there is wisdom in their voices.
Ant and spider, dragonfly and butterfly,
bee and wasp work and worry and drone;
crow and hawk, mourning dove and whippoorwill,
owl and falcon fly and flit and soar.
Raccoon and possum, coyote and fox,
fish and frog run and creep and swim.
I walk, and I listen;
I walk, and I whisper;
I walk, and I pray.
These are my songs.
This is the song of the forest.
Woven between the two is a harmony,
and the harmony flows,
and the harmony soars,
and the harmony lifts my soul on wings of dream.
I am the forest.
The forest is me.
And we are one.
here is a lump of ore for your anvil.
Pitted and scarred,
cracks and craters a mute testimony
to past attempts to
pound this crude and damaged lump
into keen steel.
I pray your hammer will do the work
of finally restoring to wholeness
the broken and battered,
torn and twisted
chunk of crippled rock
that is my heart.
Make of me, forge-lady, healer,
a useful tool,
that once again I may do good work
out there in the world
where You send me.
Who knows the language of fire?
The patterns that the smoke weaves,
the crackle of the flames,
the glow of the embers,
the scent of things burning,
the flush of heat on your flesh?
What bard is there who can recite the poems,
compose the songs,
chant the histories of fire:
Pompeii 79 C.E.
Rome 64 C.E.
San Francisco 1906
Cuyahoga River 1962
Constantinople 406 C.E.
There is a beauty to fire that
nothing can surpass:
the play of color in the flames
— orange white blue red yellow green —
rivals the dank and drowned colors of any rain-spawned bow,
and where is there in all the world
a more intoxicating perfume
than the scent of wood and herbs
slowly being rendered to ash?
The talent it takes for mortal hands
to skillfully gather tinder, birth the single spark that catches,
then build a careful scaffold of wood,
a mound of coal,
or other such fuel as you would give it
is as much an act of worship,
than simple necessity.
With me, you cook your food,
warm your home, forge steel, fire clay,
make light in the darkest night.
Without me: darkness, hunger, starvation.
So give me your hands, your skill, your time, your efforts,
and build me my perishable temples,
and offer me your gifts,
and feed me.