The Observatory, a Meditation

You’re walking up the mountain. You’ve passed the tree line and keep on going, taking occasional rest breaks as it can be hard to catch your breath up here. You tread on a red crunchy soil. After a while you realize there’s a large round building near the top. At first, you thought it was a cloud.

 

You’re much higher than you had realized as you turn and see the land you’ve walked through unfurling far below.

 

You turn back, taking in the sight of the domed building above you. There is a door ahead of you. The building is high but it is only when you enter that you realize that it is huge. Somehow the interior space seems to have grown. A matter of perspective, they say.

 

There is a long open staircase made of metal, which you can climb up to a ring of galleries. Alternatively, you might find an elevator to take you up.

 

You may find a guide here, or perhaps not. What is up there are a long series of windows (there may be as many as 70*). Through these windows you can look out onto many, many views. But sometimes they only give onto white, thick cloud banks, fogs. Look carefully. You may be able to see into the years ahead. Into possibilities, those that may be important for you and your community. Or into the Otherworld. The colors are liminal. Concentrate on them. Surrender. Can you step onto the clouds? Or see new constellations? With practice you can read them. The starlight can be intense. It can enter your cells. The atmosphere is thin.

 

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Above this, in the center of the dome is an aperture. You can’t easily approach this but be aware it is there. It is possible a god may descend from there or maybe pop up through one of the hatches.

 

You can come to this tower when you really want to know something. You may not like what you see. Maybe it will be life changing, when life becomes insurmountable below. You may see things that better helps you navigate in the turbulence ahead.

 

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*I mention this number because Merlin had an observatory with 70 windows and 70 doors as related in the Vita Merlini (Life of Merlin) by Geoffrey of Monmouth. The architect was his sister Ganieda. Unlike this one, their observatory was built in the woods. But this is just extra information.

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The Silversword Alliance

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The silversword plants (Argyroxiphium) grow around 9000 feet up on the island. Their leaves reflect. (Photo from Wikipedia). Fencing is to protect from invasive goats which have demolished their populations.

What follows is a poem full of personal gnosis.

 

The Silversword Alliance

 

the swords flash silver

in the mountain’s life,

the sun rose over the heads

of the many lost below

 

but here we raise the blades

of allegiance to the Cloud Lord,

an archaic league remade,

held high for the future.

 

where the sanctuary reigns

high like an eagle’s aerie

in the narrow valley we train

below the red house wary

 

the plants flash in the ash soil,

the alliance in mirrored din

reflects over world’s turmoil.

 

Sword_of_Nuada

Sword of Nuadha.

 

Gatherer of Souls by Lorna Smithers, a Review

 

These are poems and stories that probe, lifting tissues of (mis)remembered pasts. Ghastly misdeeds of King Arthur and his ‘knights’ are here. Smithers gives voice to those that were decapitated & slaughtered, mutilated like the Very Black Witch of Orddu, the giants of the land whose beards were pulled out bloody and nasty. Gatherer of Souls on one hand is a work of disassembly, but through such it is prophetically freeing of those who were buried, covered up, cast out as monsters from a developing, eventually imperial narrative.

 

Essentially, this book is a retrieval of Annwn, the Brythonic underworld, and of Gwyn ap Nudd to whom it is dedicated, a psychopomp and leader of the wild host who has gathered multitudes over the millennia, and is associated with Glastonbury Tor among other places. She shares her experience in a way that is accessible to the reader and also intensely poetic. “I met him on the tear-drenched edgelands between madness and reason, dreaming and waking, life and death. Gwynn ap Nudd opened the doors of Annwyn and called me to ride with him into the mists through the war-torn centuries to recover his forgotten mythos.” The book continues the courageous charting of Annwyn in her previous and recommended book The Broken Cauldron.

 

“Across Prydain giants lay headless and beardless, stony limb scattered in fragments on their hilltops. I helped them pull themselves together, fixed their broken fingers, stuck on their peeled-odd fingernails, guided their sprits into Annwyn’s craggy beds and chairs.

Their anger gathered into a muttering beneath the land that sounded like grinding rocks as Arthur and his men set forth to capture my hounds with leashes woven from their blood beards.”

 

The book is a mix of poetry and prose, but all filled with the prophetic vision of the anywyddyn. That the dead will rise again is foretold. That Gwyn has strengthened. She turns Procopius, the early Byzantine historian (who described a terrible wilderness of serpents and wolves north of the Roman walls) on his head: “From North of the Wall I return/cloaked in feather and claw./To breach the gap/and bring down the divide”.

 

Many voices speak through Lorna: a young girl living in a Celtic village who comes to know a Chalk God whom she first hates for taking her sister; there is Snow who lives at the time of the reinhabitation of Britain after the Ice Age, and who lives on plains of blizzard in the comfort of a “little tent made from willow saplings and reindeer-skins.” She tells us that it was like living in a “reindeer’s womb.” Wind Singer lives at the time of the Roman conquest and gives birth to dragons. In time of despair she flies as a dragon with the Winter Lord. Then there’s the raven that tells us of the downfall of the House of Rheged, that once-fierce kingdom in the north, of Urien blinded by the bible-bearers who forgot what his shield was all about. The oldest creatures share their stories here in a new way: the blackbirdsmith whose “black feathered cloak was sewn by the tailor who dressed the earth”, the wood stag, “when he sprouts back to life, no prison of brick can contain him; the wingless owl; the eagle who ate the stars, she who was taken to the depths by a salmon whom she healed from the wounds of the tridents; and that salmon of wisdom who now has to wear armor: “His wisdom has become a submarine to sink beneath visions of witches, eyes on the radar, launch missiles at Mabon’s prison…” and so many more…

 

As a child, I grew up with the King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table like so many Americans of my generation, went on to the shimmering artifice of Malory and later saw Arthur (whose name has a bear root) as a Celtic hero fighting off the Saxon invaders. At times this is a discomforting vision, almost a #metoo of the ‘once and future king’ on one level. The reveals of the voices of those abused feels so timely, the voices of Annwyn and the giants, witches and the rest of the ‘othered’. Smithers work is one of deconstruction but most importantly offering new vision and insight, the work of a true poet. I will be rereading this one. It could well be read alongside “Chulwych and Olwen” from the Mabinogi.

 

It can be obtained here:

https://lornasmithers.wordpress.com/publications/gatherer-of-souls/

 

Some New Publications

I’ve got an essay on filidecht “The Well, the Sea, the Dead: the Poet in Irish Lore” in the latest issue of Air n-Aithesc, Volume 4, Issue 2. http://ciannai2.wixsite.com/air-n-aithesc

And a poem: “Fleet as Deer” for Flidais.

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I’ve also got some poems in the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina book,

Blood and Roses: A Devotional for Aphrodite and Venus:

“A Grammar for Aphrodite”, “Venus and Felix Roma”, “Eros Unloosed”, and Hermes’ and Aphrodite’s Child”.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Roses-Devotional-Aphrodite-Venus/dp/1973810816/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501828200&sr=1-3&keywords=Blood+and+Roses

 

 

 

And a new post over at paganbloggers: Slipping Out Into the Mythic:

http://paganbloggers.com/blog/2017/07/29/slipping-out-into-the-mythic-by-finnchuill/

 

 

 

And happy Lughnasadh–and Imbolc for southern readers!

Towers: A Satire

These are times for satires. Here’s mine. Some of you might perceive an echo of a famous prophetic poem here, among other things. In Celtic lore, satires really do have venom.

 

Towers: A Satire

 

it rose obscenely pink

like a plucked turkey neck,

then it rose more,

slathered and viscous, not from

primeval slime but

from a polluted swamp.

 

it rose, its towers flung

upward into the heaven of circuitry

into money’s pure domain, where it was

sly at manipulating the currents.

forgetful of its place of emergence,

wiped clean of all traces of roots,

leaves, humus in a sterilizing chamber,

simultaneously calcified and virtualized it was.

 

it turned itself into sign

in the eddies of the monetary,

yet, its towers slipped having

lost their foundation, the muck and mire

from which they had emerged,

the fecund perennial glut and rut

of hordes of teeming soil, oblivious

it was to the seismic twisting of restless serpents,

slipping their fetters far beneath,

the lands and waters

growing ever more active.

rapturous with its penetration

of heaven, the phallic thing

now orange and lurid, smirked,

unaware of the scythed ones,

the raven-clawed ones, and

the red-mouthed ones rising in

fury, their cries echoed

by the shadows of the dead—shrieks

shivering the forgotten foundations

of the network of fruiting bodies

now turned putrid, purple flecked,

and blackening with rot.

 

the millennium tilted as

they threw down

sheets of blood, and

cursed with mists of confusion,

their cups of blood emptied.

the scythed ones

with a flick of wrists unseen

slice the lurid orange things.

 

falling back,

falling back

falling down

down down

 

the hitherto weightless circuits

drift down in ashy precipitate,

mad mangled metal work

and tarantellas of glass.

against the tower

a fortress wall of storm

strong as white steel glowers

over this spectacle.

the unleashed torrents lash

a bare fortress now,

crumbling, naked, defenses failing—

the high places that cannot endure

before the packs of wolves, the terrible storm birds,

the outlaws of the woods, the

reivers, the revenants, the enchanters.

 

a ghastly scene lit by

artillery of lightning reveals

corpses bobbing in the wash.

as floodtide washes away the wreck

a rainbow breaks and I see

an old lady with a basket of mushrooms grinning,

making her way through the salvage.