Thinking About: Personal Deities

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This is a topic I’ve been wanting to take on for some time, but have been unable to find the proper words to do so- perhaps there never really are any. Something I’ve been working on over the past year or so is my relationship with deity. For several years, I’d defined myself and my path by them: “I’m a devotee of Herne the Hunter” or “I worship the Goddess Cerridwen” etc. I spent countless hours reading and re-reading myths, researching, learning, reaching out…

And over time had my own experiences that I then would try to rationalize against the mythologies. “I experienced x, is it y trying to contact me? How do I know?” I see these questions posted all over the online pagan communities- as though you were going to a doctor. List the symptoms, and someone will hopefully be able to tell you what it is you have. List your experiences and maybe someone who’s been practicing and studying longer than you will know the god or goddess who matches.

But when is a raven a messenger of Odin rather than a messenger of Bran or The Morrigan- or none of those at all? What if all signs point to Cerridwen, except this handful of experiences that don’t match anything in the established lore and practice of those already worshiping her? Does it matter? Does it make it less valid? How does one justify it?

What if, as it happened to me in the springtime of last year, you are faced with the divine who is such a myriad of things that she seems not to be able to fit in any one goddess’s body of myth?

Moon Goddess
The goddess in question appeared to me in several dreams and meditations cloaked in the deep blue of the starry night, half her face in shadow the other luminescent and beautiful like the moon. She carried in one hand a staff of birch that held a silvery sickle-moon crescent, and in the other a lantern that cast a cool blue light. She was a guardian of the cauldron, a washer of the ford, a wanderer in the mists, the cold kiss of death, the hands that wove the stars… And though I saw her face echoed in the stories of Morrigan, Cerridwen, Arianrhod, Hel, Artemis… I could not attribute a single one of these goddesses to her.

moon goddess sculpture

For a time, she worried and confused me. Who was she? I wanted to find an answer in a book or a blog post, or some obscure myth in fragment over the tides of history. The more I looked, the more pointless the search became, but still she called to me more than any deity ever had, and I knew I must answer her call.

I moved away from myth and tradition- though they have their place as things to honor, to draw inspiration from, to find guidance in- and started to simply interact with deity in the way it presented itself to me. What I have found is something more deep, profound, and personal than any relationship I’ve ever had. There is a goddess I worship whose name has, perhaps, only been whispered on my lips. She guides me in the darkness.

Horned God

A similar issue had arisen during college with my relationship with the Horned God. There was a darker side to the Hunter that I did not find present in existing myths, and I tried fruitlessly to pinpoint: Is it Herne, or some other being I work with? Now it does not matter. He appears to me dragon scaled or clad in a cloak of feathers, his eyes dark like the soil or the midnight sky, and like the Lady with the Lantern, he has names that only I call him, and my path is all the richer.

I guess what I am saying is that it is perfectly fine to connect with particular gods and goddesses, to reach for them or find inspiration and connection within the stories that exist about them. It’s more than okay to try and follow traditions and old ways and rationalize. But there’s something deep and rich and worth exploring, in not worrying about the who’s and why’s and letting the divine express themselves to you in the ways that they wish.

Blessings of the Forest, Frost, and Moon,
Rachel

 

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Collected Poems of the Wylde Hunt

Below are a number of poems I wrote, mostly on my older blog, about the Wylde Hunt. I thought I’d share them all here!

The Hunter’s Horn

Can you hear the Hunter’s Horn,

Sounding in the forest deep?

Can you hear the pounding of hooves

When night creeps in and people sleep?

In the dark night can you feel

That rush of wind- that fleeting chill?

Standing in the night-time wood

What will be his latest kill?

wild-hunt

Image found here.

The Hunters’ Chase

Tripping o’er the roots and stones,

Slipping in the mud and scattered leaves I run-

The horde thundering after me.

Heart pounding in rhythm with their drums

I carry on through darkened forests deep

Horns and bays of hounds

Tear through the trees after me.

Silver slivers the moonlight glimmers down

Through barren branches

Lighting there upon the path

Leading me deeper.

Drum beats faster

The flight continues.

Will I live or will I die?

Hunter’s horn is sounding closer

Behind, I hear their haunting cry,

But won’t look back now o’er my shoulder

Won’t turn around; I cannot stop

The pounding rumbles; it’s all I hear

They plan to chase until I drop.

Thrilling ever is the chase

That leads I know not where.

But were I to lose this frenzied race

What things would

Meet me

There?

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Image found here.

Call of Herne

Hazy-eyed dreamer

You long to be

In the tangled wood

Amongst the trees

To feel the pulse

The forest’s charm

That pounding, that burning

The hunters’ drums

Starry-eyed poet

Arise! Awake!

The Hunter calls you

Your future to take!

Lose yourself

To the wild, the thrall

Join the riders

And the squall

Curious wanderer

You’ve come too far

Can you still see

Those distant stars?

Forget the path

The way you came

Join us now

Where there is no shame

Hazy-eyed dreamer

In your gaze I see:

Your fate is set

You belong with me.

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Asgårdsreien (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo

Whispers of the Autumn Court

You’ve heard us your whole life

That raspy whispering from the trees that beckons and tells you

You’re one of us…

You were afraid once

The unknown darkness overwhelmed you

Above all sense of truth you found in our words.

So we waited

Our eyes boring holes in your soul

Holes that would open into gaping wounds as you struggled

Desperately to find answers to your own darkness that came

Flowing out in roaring waves, crashing and cascading

Until you could see now in dazzling horror

The darkness that dwelt within.

The path gone before you, you stumbled into our realms.

Ours was the world of dankness and seeping chill

Of rot and decay beneath the vibrant greens

Of flash-fire autumns that gave way quickly to winter’s barren bones.

Your fingers clawed in the earth

The hoof beats of hunters drew near- a sense of foreboding you had not yet learned to hear.

You’re one of us, we told you…

Renewed strength- or was it adrenaline?- you ran

Thorny branches tearing limbs and cloth,

Thick roots tripping, ripping foot and calf and shin

The horns bellowed, the hunter rode fast

And you clung to the gleaming lights that sometimes came down from the trees

Baying hounds harried you, close to brink of exhaustion

We called out: Do not fear! Do not run!

For you are just as we are.

Escalating into a clamorous cacophony the chase of hound and hunter grew closer, closer…

Until you found yourself in the hunter’s arms

Pressed against his chest as darkness drew in around you

And in his embrace you saw us clearly

Glowing eyes blinking under tree and fern

We are darkness and dampness

We are nibblers at bone and gnawers of flesh

We are decay and rot, flash-fire brightness and brittle shells

We are hunters and slinkers in dank forest shadows

Rooted deep in the mysteries of death and decay

And the last breaths of life

Fascinating and undeniably terrible…

And you

Are one of us…

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Image found here.

Return of the Wylde Ones

Stained in shades of bloody red and orange rust

The leaves drift down silently

Beneath the squall of crows-

Hidden in the occasional thud! of fallen acorns-

Something is awakening.

The air is scented with death,

The smell of rotting leaves, moist in the dark soil.

The breeze brings chill,

Moans through branches growing ever more barren

The insects have turned into their silent places-

No cicadas or crickets to be heard anymore.

As I stand in the wooded grove,

The quiet of the forest

And shimmering last rays of golden sun

Wrap me in their embrace.

Peace can be found here, but something lingers

A bitter taste on the air of something yet to appear.

The wind dies, the silence occasionally punctuated by another

Thud! Snap!

More nuts and twigs falling to the forest floor…

The darkness settles, and I sense what had slumbered there begin to awake.

Glimmering, coal-black eyes peering from roots and mushrooms

A teeming of life that had been hidden

In the radiance of the daylight’s fading gold.

These were the wild ones.

The creatures of folktale and legend,

Those our mothers would warn us of.

They watch me with a curiosity,

Resting there in the dark amongst the trees.

But something else is coming

Another force approaches…

At first they are dull, hardly distinguishable from the pattering of acorns

But then, it registers on the edges of my awareness:

Hoof beats coming from the deeper trees

The Hunt has come to ride again.

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Image found here.

Riding With the Hunt
The leaves above me rustle and whisper, glints of golden sunlight filtering through an opulent canopy of orange and gold. Now and then, a creature scurries by in the undergrowth and fallen leaves. Though the sun is setting quickly, there is a certain sense of peace in the quiet of the woods. The winding ravine paths lead me to the edge of a jagged cliff, looking down into the tumbling depths where a river once flowed. A gust of wind catches my jacket and scarf, laughing, almost threatening to send me over the edge on which I stand. That’s when I catch it: the subtle drone on the breeze, as if a horn was being blown off in some distant part of the wood.

Stillness follows. Branches creak, almost from the burden of motionlessness- as if the very act of remaining still for too long will cause their limbs to weaken and break. Acorns fall with quiet thuds as the muteness creeps in. A lone whisper of a breeze blows past my ear: “You are one of us… Come and ride amongst our ranks…” With a smile, I nod, closing my eyes and allowing myself to be carried away.

In the arms of hunters, I soar over the crimson wood. Further up, I can see the Grand River as it cuts through the forested landscape, carving its way towards the city and beyond. My stomach turns in the way it might on a rollercoaster. We tumble through autumn breeze and storm cloud, laughing in the madness of it all. First a burst of icy fog, then a swirl of leaves caught from a tree nearby, leaping into darkened damp masses of cloud that rumble at our touch. Then, as suddenly as it began, I am plunging downward again, careening towards the forest and the ravines from which I had risen. We fall down, down through branches both barren and gilded, down past barky trunk and forest creature and into the depths of soily crag and dampened slope.

My consciousness returns to my physical form with a gasp. Eyes wide, I see that darkness has fallen around me. The ghostly whispering breeze blows gently past. In its wake, leaves scuttle ‘round my feet, muttering a raspy farewell. For now, I must leave the realm of root and rot, of moss and bark, for the land of brick and steel. I know, however, that this place will be awaiting my return…

A Whispered Return

You know me by the redd’ning leaves-
That touch of ice in the dawn.
Your every inch of being stills
In that brisk moment of my gaze- then… gone.
Ragged breath from ragged creature drawn-
Sharp.
In the knowing that my time is nearing,
And is that lustful anticipation or fearing that
Comes with the end of Cicada’s song?
You know that when the sunlight weans
I will ride in windy throng.
And each falling acorn in that clearing
Staccato.
Startling.
…Calm,
Draws you, begs you, calls you on-
To rest there on silken, fallen leaves.
Lie your head upon the moss-
For I am the truth the forest breathes,
He who in those shadows sees,
The whispered name amongst the trees,
The tingling in your spine that knows:
The Hunter comes again to call.