There's a reason most mystical truth is hidden in poetry, and why most poets are out of their minds. Emily Dickenson hinted at this in one of my more favorite poems (and speaking of being mad, she was a shut-in):
Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth's superb surprise;
As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.
Part of the problem, I think, is how words just don't quite do. There's a reason words are not our only form of communication; beyond pictorial representations of ourselves and the world (and a great photographer is not quite the one who shows the subject as it is; rather, we are shown how the photographer saw it), beyond the indescribable of music (ever try to detail to someone else what a song "means" to you? Try it again and you'll see the problem), beyond the strange evocations of scent (I cannot smell nicotiana flowers wafting into my house in a cooling evening without losing myself in intoxication), there's all the configurations of touch and movement.
On that matter, I learned something recently, and I learned it both from one of my gods and a man who for all I can tell was a devout priest of him, certainly without knowing. I watched him (the man, not the god, but I'm not sure I could tell the difference--this is a matter for poetry, not for prose) dance upon a stage and cried, learning for the first time why words cannot suffice to capture something that can only be told in movement. And, of course, there's also all the touch, all the hugging and hitting, all the kissing and fucking and punching we do to communicate with another when nothing else will do. We tell angry boys to use their words, but there's a wisdom they understand that we forget--words are for the ears, not the body.
Ah, words. What did Eliot say?
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.
They don't do enough, they don't work sometimes. And I sometimes forget, because I am all words, that I am not just words.
Still, I'm trying to tell you what I've learned, and I keep retreating to poetry. Bad habit, like smoking, like getting grumpy and shutting someone out when they seem to reject you because your body is not attractive as your face or somesuch.
This is what I've learned so far: that when people say that the gods are just stories, I should agree and, smiling, add, "and so are we."
Some people think the gods are fictions, or figments. There are those who say they're mere archetypes springing forth from human consciousness, or great teaching tools, or an endless resource of psychological self-improvement. There are those who believe in one God and think the other ones are demons. And, more complicated, there's one emanation of divinitiy of which the gods are mere interfaces, mere masks for a unitary One.
I believe something a little less complicated. They're real, and they do stuff, and sometimes go by different names to different people. They show up in my dreams and sometimes not in my dreams, somewhere between actual sight and imagination, usually in the middle of ritual but sometimes not (and in those cases, rather surprising). I've had a god show up on the face of another person, and that was...weird. I'm glad he did, though.
(It occurs to me that a few people probably think I'm not sane. It's true. I've never once claimed otherwise. Poetry demands nothing less).
If you're still reading, I'll tell you about them. If you're concerned about my mental health, I'll show you how to write an "involuntary treatment" detention declaration...I just wrote one for a client the other day. She hadn't showered in months and babbled about how the bearded men finger her with knives and left trails of strange liquid everywhere. Madness is relative.
DionysusSpeaking of madness, damn. Except not. Except yes and no.
You've heard of him, I'm sure. Toga parties and drunkenness and I recently heard there was some tv show that had one of his "followers" on it, but there were werewolves in jeans I've heard, and this seems a little less what I'm talking about.
Want to know Desire? Ask him, and stock up on lube. And then, when you're ready to actually learn something, ask him again and try to understand why you've rejected every single lover that wants to change you, even a little bit, since you first talked to him.
There's sex, yeah? And then there's something behind sex, and that's when stuff gets crazy. I don't mean what we usually think is behind sex (lust and hormones and "connection" and love and all of that). Maybe, better put, what's in-between sex? Where is that place you go when you orgasm, because you're sure the fuck not here when it happens. And remind yourself that old people who don't have sex have a profound wisdom that us young sluts need to have lots of sex to...avoid.
And then go walk by a christian church and ask why the blood of Christ is wine (or grape juice if it's evangelical).
And then go sit under a pine tree for a very long time and stare at the stars with him and see what he sees.
He likes wine, but you'll have to drink some with him. Beer works if you really have no other option, but don't be lazy with him, really. Aphrodisiacs mixed in aren't the worst idea.
ArianrhodShe's--what is she? "The Queen of the Witches," she told me in a place between sleeping and waking. And I saw a blue-silver owl in another such vision, feathers dripping from it like the flames of a phoenix.
Go stare at a pool of water, and look at the reflection of the sky in it. Now, shift your vision so you're looking at the surface of the water only, and see there's something...else. Seriously. Go try it. Now.
And then when you start losing really wonderful meaningful things to you, don't be surprised. You'll lose everything eventually, so it's good practice.
And besides, everything you've been given isn't yours. Better to be an orphan and make your own way then to have all you need and never find a path. She threw a child back to the sea, and took everything away from the other. Best mother ever, and I mean this.
Also, beware your love. Did you know you can desire without losing yourself? She and Dionysus may have had "a thing," whatever that means. What's it mean to you? It probably shouldn't.
She seems to like chamomile, or liked it when I gave it to her, or was gracious enough to pretend she did.
CeridwenStare at the full moon and remember it's completely dark on the other side.
Stare into a cauldron and die and realize it's surprisingly not all that bad. Kind of lonely until you remember that you're going to decompose and something's going to use your molecules to form itself.
Hmm. Still kind of lonely.
Not sure the way around this. Death is damn lonely. So is life. Ever been surrounded by everyone you love and felt alone? Yup. Just like that.
You die every day, and you need to. You eat the dead, you breathe their dust. The crust of the earth, that stuff you walk on? You know, dirt? How much life ended so you could put a seed into it and have a tomato?
Also--this is wisdom, you know. Meet a beautiful person, fall in love, and tell yourself it will end at some indeterminate point, and tell yourself as it starts. And then throw yourself into it fully, because it's beautiful.
Fool yourself that it's gonna last forever and you'll never see what you've got.
I'm not clear what she likes, except saying hello to her when you see the moon reminds you she's there and you're gonna die and it's a good thing.
BranI don't ever really know what to say about him, because he's a little too close. Like, I know him from somewhere, and I think I can't see him because his reflection is a little too close to mine.
But when you walk in front of a car because you are absent-minded and notice it barreling towards you and hear your own voice say with an odd timbre, "you are not my death," well, ugh.
I watched him stand, towering, on a storm-lit plain with dark hills on the horizon, wearing a fluttering black cloak which flew away into millions of crows or ravens, leaving him only as white bone around which a tower was built.
He gave me a branch of Alder, where the forest met a river. Alder seems to be everything to me now. Crows scream at me to pay attention and then I do and they stop screaming. I don't know what this means, except I've never felt safer.
Corvid feathers. Go help someone else, too, especially if it involves you taking on some crazy burden that won't break you but would them.
BrighidI don't have favorites, but, since she was the first, I think she's--awesome.
I've had more dreams of her than of the other gods, each strange and somewhat trying. She's always laughing at a hearth, and she's laughing because she knows something that I don't. I'm not sure what this is, and I won't try to tell you.
But fall in love, and she's laughing. Fall out of love, and she's laughing again, all the while building the fire she tends higher and hotter. In some places, they "smother" or "smoor" a fire, keeping coals warm overnight so that it can be rebuilt the next morning. I think this is part of it--the hearth never grows cold, if by hearth one means the warm place inside you from which all creation springs.
I've heard she likes milk, and spring water. I usually light a small fire in a metal cup with rubbing alcohol, particularly whenever I've fallen in or out of love. If Ceridwen is death and life, if Arianrhod is loss and gain, Brighid is melting and reforging.
The MorrighanI don't feel comfortable talking about her, as we've just met. A three week courting, it seems, regarding what others are calling "sovereignty."
War is to sovereignty as sex is to desire, faces of something greater, messy attempts to get at the truth.
I don't really know who she is, except, as a "triple goddess," she seems--well. I'm tempted to say she's also the other goddesses I worship, or their messenger. I don't know. Did I say this yet? I don't know.
Even still, we've met, and she taught me to do something and I trembled in fear at the responsibility of it.
And beyond all of these, there's another one, I think, whom I just saw yesterday lingering outside the circle I cast. I'll figure this out soon enough. Younger than the others. I had this silly idea when I started meeting gods that I'd get a nice manageable number and keep it at that. That was a silly thing I didn't really mean anyway, I find.