Stories II

A recent discussion I had on folktales reminded me of part of what brought me to paganism: the rich inner world of fairy tales that I grew up in. I devoured every volume of Lang’s colored fairy books, dug into folktales of the world, and when I ran out of books there, the ever-resourceful librarians of the children’s department pointed me toward the mythology section. I absorbed these stories like mother’s milk, learning that the world was not only what it appeared to be to the everyday eye. There were rules to learn: always be polite to strangers, kindness to those who are apparently weak can save your life later in the story, wishes are dangerous to the uninitiated, magic always comes with a price, whether it be a lesson in pain or simple hard work.

The myths didn’t disagree with the fairy tales, though their world often seemed less fair and egalitarian – being kind wasn’t enough to avoid disaster, nor was there always a way out of the hopeless situation if one just tried hard enough. Sometimes mistakes couldn’t be remedied. But the basic rules were the same: be polite, recognize that you are not the only one who matters, and that things that are strange to you are not to be ignored or rejected as they are likely to be your salvation, and sometimes wonder comes at the ultimate cost. The vistas were grander, and the heroes were, well, Heroes, instead of cowherds and goose girls, but it was only a short walk through the wildwood to reach one from the other.

Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time with myth, and I feel like a person who’s been eating rich foods at the king’s table who is longing for some simple bread and cheese shared with the old man sitting on the stile. It’s time for another walk through that wildwood back to the villages I know so well.

I swing back and forth between the grand vistas of the myths and the homely sense of the folktales, and am often left wandering in the wildwood between them. I think sometimes it’s the recognition that the world isn’t for humans alone that makes folktales powerful. There is a certainty that crows find us just as ridiculous as we find them, and that there are many things older and wiser that never wore a human face. The world is more terrible and more beautiful because of it, and it’s only our desperation for safety that lets us lie to ourselves that it isn’t so.

Even humans aren’t really tame.

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A New Mask

I never meant this blog to be exclusively poetry. It was started in a fit of inspiration, when the poems were pouring through me and clamoring to escape my notebooks, but I never meant to be a poet singing on the street corner with nothing to say beyond the madness of poets. It is hard to converse with the madness of poets.

But poetic madness, for all it walks the landscape of the soul, is easier to hide behind than open prose. Let me try again to speak without the safety of rhyme and structure, to wear a less concealing mask.

 

Samhain Blessings

A wet restless wind came in with the dawn, window rattling, leaf scattering, whispering under the edge of hearing. Clouds rolled along the sky all day, threatening, but the rain stayed in them, the wind damp with promise. As the sun slid toward the horizon and the sky began to relinquish its light, the rain finally came, thick and heavy with the weight of the day, the weight on the year’s hinge.

When the rain had washed away the remainder of the light, I sat down at my shrine to celebrate the eve. Bread, fresh-baked and sweet scented incense and oils for the spirits at my shrine: my ancestors, the spirits of this place and the Otherworld, the gods who have called me to their work. Praise for those who stand on the hinge of Here and There, Oirbsen Mac Alloth, son of the sea and Anu Buanan, the rich queen of many crops. Wine for the cup of blessing and prayers for those who have gone before, including my grandfather, just started on that journey. An omen of three names to guide me on my way and thanks, and thanks, and thanks for all that has been given me, including the work before me.

Then sleep, the wine warm in my belly, the incense sweet in my lungs, the wind and its riders rattling the trees, and a visit with my grandmother, many years gone to the grave, who whispered to me small secrets she has learned, reminding me that she is always present, even when the veils lie heavy between us.

A blessing on the day, and all who mark it.