Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ceridwen's Gift (Samhain, 2013)

(copyright Will Worthington)
All this was a long time ago, I remember, 
And I would do it again, but set down

This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death?  There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

From The Journey of the Magi, T.S. Eliot


Speak the word with voice, not just your mind.
Look upon it.
Play with it.

It is to be feared less than Life.

Some believe in only one god, a promise of life which comes after life, which defeats Death, as if they would also defeat Life.

Some believe in no gods, and no life after life, no life after death, only death and the mystery of Life.

I believe in gods.  I've been called by One who means Death-- Death, which is Life, which is again Death then Life.
Her cauldron is never still.

Death is coming for a matriarch, and this is a great sorrow.  But in her face I saw the crone look out, reminding me to tend Her cauldron.

Death came for a patriarch, a life lived in suspension, in expectation of a peaceful life after work.  The tending was done before he'd finished, before he'd finally lived.
This was his lesson to me.
This is Her lesson to us.

Death came for an ancestor, death by his own hands, escape from a life unresolved.
She drowns children, She calls from the sea which is the womb of all life.
We crawled aeons before from Her salt tears to the rim of Her cauldron.
Some of us crawl back into the ocean, summoned or pulled or chased.

Death comes for others so quickly, so close to what seemed the dawn that we rage.
We foam like Her waves, we scream at and through Her moon.
We try to pull it down to understand, we try to blot it out, and all the while,
we stir Her cauldron.

Death will come for me some day, but this is less hard than what comes between Death.

Death is the water of life.
It is our food, fed upon life cut down with scythes or blade, ripped from earth and plucked from branch.
It clothes us in skin no longer covering flesh, it warms us by mirthful hearths.
It runs our machines which run us into other lands, which will one day run us under a dying earth.

There is no sense to Death, except as the shape, the shadow, and the light of Life.
How can we see Life without its end?
How can we whet desire without its loss?

In love is Death.
What was, goes away, dies, clears for new life.

In Death is love, and this is not strange--
But beautiful, Her pale face
gazing upon the life she birthed with death,
the life she fed,
life cradled in her crescent arms,
her silvered sharpened scythe.


Death and Life dance in Her cauldron
and I think
Life is the greater Mystery.


Do not shun Her gift.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013


On Writing:
It's been awhile since I've actually felt a bit "blocked" when I try to write.  For the past 9 months, and particularly those five weeks in Europe, I've had the opposite problem--great streams of words attempting to pour through whatever medium possible, impatient need to sit before a computer or find a pen (I'm frustratingly picky about my pens) to inscribe whatever is desperate to come out.  
I don't want to say I'm uninspired, for this isn't true.  But there's a different obstacle I find myself confronting.

On Stability:
Yes.  Stability.  Utter lack of stress.  Four of Wands and Cups and Swords and Pentacles, each of which keep showing up in my readings for myself.  Fours are structure.  Solidity.  A pause in movement, a sort of completion from which one can build.  But I thrive on the incomplete, on instability.  Foot upon cobble trudging to a tent, getting stuck in gorse and picking one's way out before the sun sets, getting lost, confused, needing wits, alertness.  It's frustrating to say I'm always at my best when I'm poor, uncertain.  Oh, and cold.  It's really warm here.

On Here:
It's quite nice, you know, being amongst family, being amongst warmth and stability.  It's calm.  The parts of me that are all fire, all air may be gnawing behind my eyes, but it's been quite a while since I've experienced that thing all you normal folk have been raving about for years.  It's nice.
It's also different.  Physical distances are immense here.  Walk an hour from my old home in Seattle and I was downtown.  Walk an hour here and I've reached a mall.
The trees are strange to me, or better said, I am strange to them.  Also, I didn't realize how much of my life has been surrounded with mammalian life until sitting under the full moon in a backyard and watching only lizards.  I've seen a (one) squirrel, and one rabbit. A tree-frog followed me in last night and I couldn't rescue him until just an hour ago.  His back was so sticky that he got stuck to the paper I used to trap him with, and the poor thing comically attempted to extricate himself, his legs flailing.  I feared I'd hurt him, but he appears to be okay.

On Appearances:
There's this old idea I had when staring at a small "downtown" area in British Columbia.  Perfect streets, perfect storefronts, precisely what one things when one thinks "downtown."  But there was nobody there.  
It felt like a film-set, until I realised how much of everything in North America, particularly of the newer-colonized areas, seems so one-sided, so insistently old-appearing but so vapidly new.  
Why build things to look old?  Why give the appearance of antiquity, and, more interesting, what makes us think old forms which take hundreds of years to develop can be merely replicated with architecture?
There are more such places here, faux city-centers that become more tourist destinations than actually-used space.  There's certainly a desire for such places, and I'm certain also a need for them (and the exchange of thoughts/expressions/glances/words which typically occur in old market squares or naturally-grown centers), but what makes us think we can merely engineer them?

On Disney:
I'm becoming kind of fearfully obsessed with the place.  I've never been, and, like learning to drive, I've been hoping to live a long, full life without ever needing to do so.  
Again, why build fake castles and shallow tales except to fulfill some sort of human need?  I don't think anyone goes to Disney merely to be "amused," there's something more human being (ful)filled by (commercial) fantasies. I'm afraid I may have to get closer to the terror in order to comprehend it. 

On Fantasy:
I stopped playing video games just before I started formally studying druidry, and have oddly found myself quite uninterested in doing so.  I think games, particularly the RPG's I'd play, filled (but never fully sated) a longing for enchantment which I'd left ignored for too long.  Interestingly, I found myself also less interested in fantasy fiction, which presents an incredible problem for someone who's written two manuscripts in that genre.  
I've been almost reluctant to re-encounter fantasy, mostly because I've recognised it as having become a sort of distraction, if not actually addiction.  
But, well--Le Guin.  I re-read her collection of short stories, The Birthday of the World, and have begun to remember how falsehoods can be more true than Truth.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I am not where I thought I would be, and I am glad of it.

Weeks can be months, you know, or years.  It is an understatement to say this, and I don't think I can begin to make this clear through words, but the weeks I spent in Europe felt to me like years; better said, maybe, that I lived an entire life in the space of little over a month, the moon's full turning and then some.

Between two feasts of saints drest up to cover over an older truth, an older god, I wandered streets of cobble between ancient buildings in another land which feels ever more mine than the one into which I was born.  No longer difficult, really, to understand why so many stories of heroes or fools taken into the Otherworld become to them entire lifetimes before returning, I feel myself having somehow partaken of a stream issuing forth from time that is more than time, and, returning, am a bit off-balance, a bit confused, staring at pavement where once there were stars.

But this is not bad.

I did not dislike my life in Seattle while I was there, despite the ever-encroaching legions of profiteers and enthusiastic spenders spiraling the cost of a meagre existence ever upwards.  I did not think myself unhappy, and, truthfully, I was not until I understood what could be had.

Sometimes, we bury dreams we do not wish to let see light because they are so dear to us we'd hate to watch them wither.  But a funny thing about what we bury--sometimes, after winter's frost and the earth's heaving, after cold rains and unseen tumult of worm, some buried dreams sprout through the soil and live anyway, independent of our fears.

One of those is this: I'll be moving to Berlin next year, by Beltaine or Midsummer.

Until then, I've some re-weaving to do.  I'm wearing a pair of shorts with holes in every pocket through which coins and stones slip to the earth, and I find this an apt metaphor for my life.  Things which have worked but not completely, things which sufficed for only some things but not for everything. Things becoming threadbare with time, needing attention despite my desire to ignore them even as things I could have slip by me.

Did you know I have two unpublished manuscripts?  Just under this pile of soil and leaves over here, near the tree I didn't water but it lived anyway.  I'll be editing those.  The worms never fully got to them, it appears, and they've been tentatively reaching through the packed earth towards the sun from which I tried to hide them.  Published officially or online, you'll be seeing them soon.

The guy who buried them hadn't heard rivers whisper back, hadn't met spirits in dream who offered him ancient villages.  The guy who wrote them thought he knew the meaning of words like "will" and "manifest," until he hauled a 50lb pack up an old druid mount and then met some people and heard some things under the moon that he still can't quite understand but figures another part of him already does.

And there's some other re-weaving to be done.  Ancestors are tricky and sometimes kind of revolting, and I've got some stories to re-write on their behalf so they stop being so revolting and instead be what they are, souls for which life was unlived and death came either too quickly or by choice to escape what life should have been but never was.  There's a reason I'm near family just before Samhain, and there's a reason I'm too dense to plan such things.

I'm still here.  Actually, I'm more here.  I don't know where here is, though it has a name and has some fascinating trees and some endearing souls and lots and lots of distances crossed by big bits of metal on wheels which remain out of my comprehension.

Meantime, I'll be re-weaving stories.  Ones I've written, ones others failed to write, one which cannot be fully written until I've gone away.

And, also, hey--thank you.  You who've been reading these, who've sent me emails or comments, who've had dreams about me and were kind enough to pass them on, who've divined or prayed or maybe just merely thought upon me while I was watching the world explode into brilliance and meaning about me.  The pilgrimage was for myself, yes, but I hope my words warmed you, I hope my attempts to paint with symbols-for-sound what I saw made more beautiful your world.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Travel Journal 10

"Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging;
You are not those who saw the harbour
Receding, or those who will disembark.
Here between the hither and the farther shore
While time is withdrawn, consider the future
And the past with an equal mind."
T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages

I do not have words for the last days of my journey.

This is not to say that they were less wonderful, less fascinating.  Playing breton and yiddish songs in the smoking room of a club on pause from gay bingo, treading slowly through the press of people in an open-air market to feel their thoughts, sitting wistfully below a willow which for the last three years stood motionless in a framed photograph upon my bedroom wall. Sleeping and waking and dreaming to arms of warmth, smiles of friends unseen for years, the Other whispering always still and then, suddenly, withdrawing until I made a choice.

Staring at a canal from the edge of a bridge, the place I've gone in my head relentless times when the present revealed itself as less than even it's shadow, I remembered: it was a vow which brought me here. It will be a vow which brings me back.

You can weave love, like stories, into the warmest of cloaks to wrap about you against the coldest of winds.  Not all shields must be made of wood or metal, and not all which protects you must prevent you. 

The night before I left I played in darkness, unknown songs pouring from my flute into the breathing air, the chill.  Again, his voice, questioning--"did you forget? You should not forget."  Remembered always when most needed, when most required, awakening those who listen past life and death, awakening what hears past flesh and bone.

I'd gone for reasons near numerous as stars, but one, outshining the others, reminded itself to me, what I could not leave without addressing, what I could not part without deciding. 

Another vow to gods and land and spirits, another vow to myself.

I have wondered to myself why these nearly five weeks were so different from the other four times I've been to Europe.  Each time I've left bits of my soul, bits of my heart in those lands, and have wondered to myself why I'd go back again just to feel the pain of leaving. 

Like love, knowing an ending is birthed in every beginning, why embrace what will one day cause pain?

But this analogy falters on a truth I've learned, a self I've finally met.  I've scattered myself elsewhere on purpose, to draw myself back, to sabotage the saboteur.  I did not know we could wield desire until now, relying only upon unconscious forces and whims to draw ourselves to others, others to ourselves.

I am in America now, after having selected and chosen and left bits of my soul elsewhere for safekeeping, things I intend not to live without, things I must see again.

I once feared promises and oaths, dreams and visions, desire and will.  Now I weave a cloak about me, another winter to endure, and I am ever warmed.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Travel Journal 9: You

I have drawn song from stone and air through wood in an ancient chapel so obscure none knows when it was built.

I have listened by stones worn by time and fierce wind as the sun set, listening for the echoes of their meaning at their feet amongst gorse and heather.

I have stood before the skull of an urchin made holy in a cathedral radiating authority and control over brooding spirits waiting for the return of their time.  

Upon a worn mountain I waited, exhausted, as the visions and dreams poured through the moon's reflected light upon the shaking heads of corn, felt the rain upon my head as the chill set in, and stood, near-blinded, staring out into the landscape of which my dreams had been mere reflection.  

By rivers I've whispered back to river-goddesses too-eager to have a someone to hear them, hill-spirits deadened to their own voices by centuries of neglect and rape, and trees laughing without mirth at my attempts to speak their language.  

Over ancient cobbles, through narrow alleys, by wells and fountains and worn statues I've trudged, unhurried like toad and turtle, burdened like ox, bound to earth, bound to what I carry.  

And here is a city, old like ice and new like rain, curious like glaciers, breathing like mountains.

I don't know how to speak of Berlin.  I will tell you what I have done, I will wield dulled words to carve symbols from what remains always unspoken.

Had I better art, I'd speak only myth.  Myth is truth wrapped in mystery where it survives time, survives the present and its concerns and weaknesses.  It bridges past and future into an always-now which is no present but that which the present only shadows, only reaches for.  It is the correspondence between life and love, or death and the eternal.  

Berlin is myth. Like the gods, like ourselves.

October 2nd

Wake in the morning within a massive flat, once thrice its size 'till the inhabitants split its space for others.  Crawl down carefully, backwards, the ladder to the 10 foot high loft only half-way reaching to the ceiling, wander out into the cavernous kitchen where the communal-renters share coffee and fruehstuck with you. 

Speak to an old friend, met in another city neither of you liked.  Listen to her happyness, the ferocity of life coursing through her words, the serene wonder of the world in her eyes and remember that this is not strange for this city. 

Leave the building down echoing stairs into a courtyard, through a gate into another courtyard, through yet another into a world you almost forgot existed outside this home.  People strolling, walking, rushing but unstressed towards bakeries, towards food stands, towards work that starts later than most societies would allow.

Down steps into a tunnel breathing warmth and old metal dust towards the rushing of underground trains which feel so familiar you are sometimes surprised you've paid for the trip.  Up other stairs into another city which is the same, by a canal lined with willows and sycamore and chestnut.  Walk further in, farther over stone and bridge to where already people lunch at tables under awnings sprayed with graffiti like the stones beside them, a city inked in missives, tattooed and henna'd, the surface of the buildings like the soil of the earth in which our lives are lived, into which our deaths are composted into more and more and more life. 

Can there be too much life?  Not if there is death.  Death is not the product of life, it is its' mother, the fallen tree the widow's kind funerary rites, the spring the maiden's blossoming..  Death is our mother, filling the world with life, these streets with life, this air with--

Drink.  Walls covered in fake pink fur, the smokiest, coziest uterus you've ever re-visited.  You know you will reak the next morning, you know the music's horrible, you know you shouldn't run your fingers through the fur wall-fur so grey you're not certain you don't see pink only because you know you're supposed to.You are in a womb which is a bar which is a sacred site to you, not an old druid circle or an ancient tomb, but holy nonetheless, and a bit nauseating, a bit gross, and you are glad of it 

October 3

Wake in the morning to coffee, not where you started the morning before.  Walk from the place and find it noon, and others are waking, and it is a holiday, and the autumn air, cold, breathes out the stale smell of beer and smoke.  Beyond it is another smell, a quality to air we've no words for.  We've forgotten to name those things, but remember that, in another time of freedom before hatred marched through streets, they'd named it a song. 

The song's ridiculous, but it makes you smile as you sing it in your head with more coffee in hand, powder from what an american president called himself in your beard. The air, the luft (luft luft), and you reel in wonder until you catch the light upon the canal and remember what you were trying to remember to remember.

But it's all different now, isn't it?  You see the light refracted and remember it goes elsewhere, just as on the three rivers, by the pool in another land.  The gods you've heard are here, too, and wonder at this as you drink mineral water and air and drink in the severe beauty of the people who pass, radiating out like the fire infused into coffee, heat slipping through your fingers into the air like their dreams and you suddenly remember how everything fits together.

Meet a friend at an abandoned airfield.  Be so full of wonder you fret you cannot hold such happyness, standing where life grows from man's failed plans, gardens and kites and children and old folks playing in a park birthed just as chamomile finds purchase between side-walk cracks.  Watch the sun set with your friend, feel his happyness in what others might call sorrow, hope as air, hope as breaks in pavement waiting from life to fill it. 

Watch the faces of others watching the sun.  Walk towards them, see the violet gold and rose upon their skin, their eyes in wonder, unseeing yours, and know you've seen the same thing with them, and wonder how much life is coursing through you, so much you think you'd break, you'd burn without outlet.

Go get food.  It's cheap.  You can live off street food here and be well.  Wonder why you waited to order, why you prolonged the moments you'd wait in this line, remark to yourself how it probably will mean something to have done so.  Listen to the man next to you attempt to order, sense his determination despite his confusion.  Smile and help him. 

Spend the next couple of hours with him on the street and at a bar where people just ending their night from the day before buy you drinks.  Laugh in amusement how it's only 8pm and you're about to go out again, but make plans to take him to the Turks the next day and return home quickly for tea, drink again with that same friend and another, find yourself amongst the pink fur again and smile.

October 4th

Tea again, and tomato fennel soup with arugula bruschetta you forged quickly because you woke a bit late and had promised it to your hosts who smile without fret at your tardiness.  From scratch, at a cost less than thought possible in that place you're from but you've stopped remarking on this to yourself. 

Tea again, and then the lost british boy and the turkish market and canals and parks and words and words and new wine and dreams.  Talk of trees and their meanings, the fourth forfeda's final marks his name, again all weaves together.  His wonder at the city reminding you of your wonder, making it a bit easier to integrate, a bit easier to stay calm, a bit easier to fend off what you know is coming. 

You know you will return again, but before then you shall go elsewhere. 

Berlin is a lover who demands nothing and promises nothing, but while you are with him, while you are with her, the world is only always love.  Berlin is a home you've never stayed in, though you always may yet you rarely consider it.  Berlin is a dream you don't dare manifest, too beautiful to see the light of morning but no-one really sees the light of morning in Berlin except when they leave the bars.

But Berlin isn't the bars, or the sex, or just either.  It isn't just the canals and the market and the air.  It is this and another thing, a thing you know you cannot plumb, a love you are certain cannot die much more than it can ever fully live.

But see it already on the eyes of someone just here, fumbling with coins to buy a ticket.  See the smile in return from your friends, warm acknowledgment, their own contentment, their embrace of the same thing you see.  And know they all see it, and you are not alone.  Stay if you can, leave if you must.

Perhaps it's enough for you to know it is there.  Perhaps it is no longer enough for you to know it is there.  To know of the gods, or of the ancients, or of the spirits, or of the pyramids temples cathedrals palaces forests springs mountains--it is enough for some.  For others it is the end of enough, the death of satedness, and the beginning of everything else

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Travel Journal 8: Gates

There are gates everywhere. Doors, if you will.  Cracks in walls which open when you push, gaps between things into which your thoughts can fit, squeeze through, and enter. 

Some gates are made of light.  Sunlight filtered through trees hitting stone.  Sunlight filtered through trees refracted on water.  Light dancing, still, not what it was, not what it will be when you look away.  Starlight through pines.  Candlelight against leaf.

Some of darkness and shadow.  The abyss between elder at night, the blackness of open cave, the un-seeing of closed eyes in sleep, the depths in the soul where the heart's light does not always reach.  

Most are outside, but they are also in.  In a meditation regarding the High Priestess, a seer found "this is the hall of wisdom," and "learn to discern the real from the false," and "listen only to the Voice that is silent."

Doors within are there but overgrown, hidden, like ruins of ancient forts and temples covered in vine and fallen tree.  Cleared, the keys found, they can be entered, and they lead not to more inside, but an Other outside.

Death, too, is a door, but it is one we enter and choose to close behind us.  

And I have never felt so alive.

September 29

Mornings in my friend's apartment in Strasbourg were always the correct pace needed to come to consciousness, with gentle proddings from her ever-eager dog who'd become for me quite the companion as well.

It was a Sunday, a day sacred from commerce and most (but never all, a fact most forget and I really think they should not) work.  And the last day of the bike I'd rented with Duf's help (the deposit was not steep, but on an american bank card the release of the funds takes another two weeks past the return).

Words should be said regarding the riding of bikes in medieval cities.  That is, oh, fuck yes.  Do it.  Cobbles are as bumpy as you imagine they will be, and also a lot more fun than you'd think.  Race and dart and dodge between cars attempting to navigate streets made for horses instead of wagons of steel, glance suddenly at looming antiquity jolting out between 400 year-old alleys, lock your bike next to the 700 or so others, and go drink a beer.   Much is made of bike-culture in liberal cities like Seattle, but, really, events like critical mass are only solidarity rallies for people who haven't the fortune of living in Europe.

Duf and I rode to Germany.  I'm a bit tempted to leave this statement stand for those of you with less geographical knowledge, but I try to be honest in these.  It was only a few kilometres across the Rhin river (not Rhine, not Rhon, but Rhin).  There's a park on either side of the border, a sort of unity memorial (that is, hey, let's not fight bloody wars again for awhile, see, maybe these trees will help? And of course I think that trees always help).

After returning the bike (with some sadness, I'll admit), I walked about the city again for another five hours.  I find I sometimes cannot stop walking, even when tired.  The feel of stone under foot, even through boots, is profound, welcome, comforting, like treading slightly-cool water on an excruciatingly hot day. Connection to the ground below you, the slow, almost meditative speed by which one must walk long distances--it is profound, and I do not think you can know a place without walking through it.

September 30th-October 1st

Early in the morning I left Strasbourg for Offenburg, a small town in germany at the foothills of the Schwarzwald. So, Ridigul (the aforementioned punk street-musician who'se name I'm sure I've mispelled) and I went to Offenburg to stay with his twin brother

There's a term I came up with after my first trip to Europe. "Stupid tax."  It describes the excessive prices one pays in any place because one is foreign or strange to it.  Purchasing something that costs less just a few blocks further, buying the wrong transit pass (or the correct one but using it wrong), being ignorant of national holidays or sunday closures and failing to plan accordingly, etc.  You pay the first day no matter what, but the longer you stay in a place and the more observant you are, the less you must pay each day afterward.

A train from Strasbourg to Berlin costs 160 euro and takes 6 hours.  I had been fretting not having purchased this ticket before, and as the deadline for buying it swiftly approached, I got a bit grumpy at the idea of spending so much (I can live for two weeks in most of the places I've been for this cost).

As it turned out, however, I did not need to. Ridigul informed me of a different means, also by trains but slower, taking 12 hours instead of 6 but costing 40 euro.  Having lots of time, I decided this sounded rather welcome--12 hours to think while staring at the german country-side is precisely the sort of thing I realise I find fun now. 

Also something I find fun now is playing music with twin german street musician brothers in a small town for an entire day.  Coffee, bratwurst, neuwein (new wine--like grapejuice, but alcoholic and cheap), accordion and guitar and two of the best voices I've heard in a long time.  And then onion-cake (quiche, except with about 60 onions, and I know this because I chopped them all and still smell like them four days later) and maybe a bit too much beer and maybe a little too little sleep, and then, the next morning, 12 hours of train travel.

I'm not sure what to say about this trip, except that if one's just spent four weeks in France, the first three of which filled with the most profound spiritual experiences of one's life thus far, 12 hours in-between places is a great escape.  In transition, between realms, un-rooted, shuttled between worlds--one is safe to contemplate ones life without interruption, without concern, without direct experience (except through the windows of a fast-moving train). 

I started the journey near 9am, arrived in Berlin around 10pm and at the place of my friend Birga near 10.30, crashing out but not before taking in the strange, welcome, almost breathing air of this city.

I'm here now, writing from an internet cafe after having stared at my favorite canal for an hour in the sunlight (which inspired the words which begin this dispatch).  I've not much else to say, as Berlin demands experience, makes detachment an act of suicide, makes mediation criminal.  I'll find some stuff to say, certainly--I always do.  But let this suffice for now, and, to repeat: I've never felt so alive.