The Car of the Juggernaut from The Illustrated London Reading Book (1851)
As part of my daily practice, I write a poem of at least nine lines. As a Druid priestess, naturally some of these poems express spiritual experiences, or explore mythology. Here are a selection of some of the pieces I’ve written on mythological themes, trance visions and other spiritual experiences this winter.
Enjoy, then, the softness of the sky.
Too soon the storm will come, stripping trees
as Draupadi, once gambled away
in the hall of her enemies. Who,
then, will intervene with veils of green?
No one. Jaganatha, the great wheel
slow, inevitable. The devout
lay down in bliss, consent to be crushed
and then reborn in glory, in praise
Speaking to the dead
The lord of the dead has a kindly face
as he bars the entrance to a cave full
of darkness. Sometimes visitors peek out
and give their messages, speaking of love
and remembrance and waiting, and they fade
into the shadows of their other life.
They keep such semblance of themselves to forge
a link between us, but these links are held
lightly, by open hands urgent to fly
The journey to the mists
The mists rise under the foot of the tree,
eddy and swirl. What do you see in this
place of between? A star shines out from cloud
but otherwise I am alone, gray-cloaked
at the foot of the axis of the world.
Bite into the apple of your binding.
What do you leave behind to cement you
here? I bite and taste my anger, my pride.
Sweet and bitter both, more than a mouth can hold.
The Red God readies his hostel for you,
king. The curt knock on the door announces
the final breaking of oaths, shattering
the last binding that protected you.
One-eyed and lame, the old woman spits truth
and vanishes on the wings of a crow.
You thought this temple was a mansion
for you alone. You seem surprised, seeing
a sea of spears restore tilted justice.
Note: ‘Dá Derga’ actually means the Red God, and is a title of the Dagda. The hostel is an ancient temple that survived, disguised, in folk memory. The story tells about the death of a king who has broken his geasa, the sacred vows that bind him.
Dancing maenad. Detail from an Ancient Greek Paestum red-figure skyphos, made by Python, ca. 330-320 BC. British Museum, London
Wield your sword at the creatures of the air!
An anonymous word accuses you.
A thirst for justice gave it flight,
until the frenzy took over, shaking
us like Maenads in the grip of the god.
With our joyful hands, we ripped the stag
to pieces, only mildly surprised
to see it has our father’s shape, our son’s,
when the thread of our ecstasies is spun
Note: Greek tragedies tell of men who illicitly watches the rites of women or otherwise pissed off Dionysus, and who ended up literally ripped to pieces by the Maenads, who thought they were killing beasts. I’ll let you figure out what I’m really writing about here.
The Morrígan as Battle Crow by Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874 – 1951)
An impromptu hymn to the Morrigan
How little I know you, and so well —
The purple sheen on the raven’s wing,
the saw-toothed edge of the knife cutting
my thumb, the fountain that wells from that
slashed crevasse: deeper than rubies, brighter
than flowers, the river of my life.
You make me question the ugliness
of bones. Hear, then, the skull’s speech: always
of you, your glory at the edges
Meán Geimhridh with the Dagda
Image from the 1918 book “The Mythology of All Races”
The father delights in feeding his kin —
all who live or have lived. Eager he haus
the cauldron on his back, bringing all
to the Hostel of the Red God. Fear not,
you with kindness in your hearts, generous
still as you forge the path in the brush.
All the generous shall find a home here
and food for their bellies, always enough.
You are loved in the world: enough, enough.
God is the winged woman atop the tree
the evergreen filled with light
and all the symbols of the growing world.
I always hung the pale purple glass grapes
at the top. At the foot, a woman
gave birth to a baby, as women do,
and loved ones gathered with gifts. Still the light
rose from a woman, shone from a woman,
winged like victory on the highest branch.
Note: A remembrance of one of my oldest spiritual experiences.
A painting of a Victorian era description of Áengus mac Óg, via Wikimedia Commons. Painter unknown.
Waiting for the road, the long ride,
the transition from one place to
another, each moment a greeting
and a farewell, a welcoming
and a sorrow. This is more than
one day — rather it is Aonghus
and the riddle that won him the brugh:
for day and night, each and every,
a single moment that spans all time
Aonghus of Dreams
Do you hear him singing, with the birds
around his head? Where does that thread end,
the tapestry begin, the trailing fringe
of dream that brushes your face in sleep?
Which feather belongs to a bird and which
to the god? He spreads white wings in welcome
at the clear lake where he met his own
beloved in the throes of dream. “Sleep now,”
he hums, then spirits you away Étaín
The Druidess, oil on canvas, by French painter Alexandre Cabanel (1823–1890)
I was born on the sixth night of the moon,
a crescent of milk taking its shape
in the night on the journey from darkness
to waxing light. When white-robed priestesses
clambered up the oak trunk with golden shears,
dropping the mistletoe to the bullhide.
So close to the ebb tide, but the full floods
in, incremental as it lifts the boats
in the harbor. Above, the leaves sing on.
Note: Traditionally, Druids gathered the sacred mistletoe on the sixth night of the moon.
Tea with Brighid
You serve me tea. The storm roars white outside
the thatch, the shutters latched. The hearthfire roas
and you pour it fragrant into the cup —
and push a scone with raisins on a plate.
Devotion is marked, you say. I pour you
coffee most mornings in truth, and the tea
in the Otherworld and you are grateful
enough to pour it in turn. This is what
binds Gods and us: friendship, kin, love and trust
The night before Imbolc
Lux in Tenebris by Evelyn De Morgan (1855–1919)
Like a ghost, like a phantom, the cloth
on the rail rises with the rain’s wind
the pale blue of its woad alight in the night
gathering every drop of light in
the inky dark. Will she come? Will she
touch it, press a pale palm against it
bestowing blessing before moving on?
Have I earned that grace, even forgetting
as I am to leave fodder for her cow?
The kitchen is a mess this nighttime
and I consider Nera, how he walked
the roads with a corpse on his back, talking,
and at the house with the dirty kitchen,
the dinner dishes unscraped, they cadged
a life, chaos shielding their thievery,
while the houses with sparkling counters and
clean plates threw up an unseen warn and
the man walked on with a corpse on his back
Note: The myth of Nera is one of the reasons I always try to make sure the kitchen is clean before I go to bed!