If you grace my blog even occasionally, you know that I love poetry. I love the way that words -- "mere" words -- can transport us. I guess that some of it is my Ascendant in Gemini, which loves wordplay, and some of it is my Sun in Pisces, which craves ecstasy, which I find, more often than almost anywhere else, in poetry. Some of it seems to be my memory of past lives when poetry, especially spoken poetry, was one of the few available art forms and ways to honor the Goddesses and Gods. And some of it is just capital-P-Poetry, itself, which is, well, for me poetry is both oxygen and lagniappe. When our ancestors developed grunts and squacks to mean, "Give me that stick," and "The baby needs attention," and "You can have some of mine," who knew they were laying the foundation for the author of the Song of Amerin, for Blake, Shakespeare, Crowley, Cavafy, Levertov, Akhmatova, Mary Oliver, Rumi, Dylan Thomas, Charles Williams, Peake, Burns, Gibran, Robin Morgan, Dorothy Parker, and so many others? I'd love to think that, someday, eons from now, any of my quotidian efforts would evolve into anything even remotely resembling poetry. May the Goddess guard that first great, great, many-times-great grandmother of mine who grunted the same way every time to mean, "Seeds," or "Meat," or "Danger" or "Comfort Here." That was a v good idea that you had, Lady.
And, so it is that Imbolc, when we give special homage to the Goddess Brigid, Goddess of poets, is a special Sabbat for me, one that I spend almost, well, not almost -- one that I spend all the way drunk on poems. I have a lot of books and, when I moved into this little cottage and catalogued all of the books, carefully by the Library of Congress system, onto Stickley bookshelves, the poetry books went into the kitchen, on the breakfast nook table, where they are most accessible. There are people who find it weird to walk into the kitchen and find poetry and people who love the poetry in my kitchen. It's a v good sorting device. So, it's v, v, v difficult for me, as you may imagine, to choose just one poem to post for Anne Hill's Poetry Slam.
I have a few poems listed in my will to be read when they push a button and send my body into the fire. But there's one of them that always makes me cry, raises goosebumps, sends me into the realm of the divine. And I am more grateful to Doreen Valiente, for channeling it, than I can ever say. So here's my contribution for this year's Imbolc Poetry Reading. It's old, and well-worn, and it never fails to send me. Others will post newer poems, edgier poems, poems that delight with their uniqueness. But, for me, capital-P-Poetry is this one, the one I want someone to be reading to me when I transit from Autumnals, etc.
Traditional by Doreen Valiente, as adapted by Starhawk:
Listen to the words of the Great Mother, Who of old was called Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arionrhod, Brigid, and by many other names:
Whenever you have need of anything, once a month, and better it be when the moon is full, you shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me Who is Queen of all the Wise.
You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you be free you shall be naked in your rites.
Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.
For My law is love is unto all beings. Mine is the secret that opens the door of youth, and Mine is the cup of wine of life that is the cauldron of Cerridwen, that is the holy grail of immortality.
I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before.
Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things and My love is poured out upon the earth.
Hear the words of the Star Goddess, the dust of Whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body encircles the universe:
I Who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters,
I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.
For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe.
From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.
Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.
Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.
For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.
At the end of all desire, there's the Goddess. That does it for me. Like all really good capital-P-Poetry, this one lends itself to adaptation. This weekend, at my Circle's Imbolc celebration, my gorgeous sister K. adapted the list of Goddesses at the beginning to the list of those Goddesses with whom our Circle has worked each year. It made goosebumps run all up and down my body and reminded me that I was, all unoworthy and unprepared, bathing in the presence of the divine.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."