Icarus The Phoenix

A poem from Ellen Ricks


Sipping on molotov cocktails
Watching the bridges burn.
Paragraph and people singe, then fade.
Igniting and Extinguishing.
Becoming a idol is no easy feat.

Combing through the wreckage of my holy lands
Creating wings forged from tarot cards and old scars.
Lords of the Labyrinth warn me not to fly so high.
Igniting and Extinguishing.
But failed to tell me what it meant to fall.

Miracle, called me a miracle
Must have been magic, to fall from such heights
There is no savior here, only survival
Igniting and Extinguishing.
Rebirth is just mending the broken pieces.

Scarlett and glitter imprint on me like a tattoo.
Keeping the ashes as a talisman.
Reminder that prophets are self-actualized
Cautionary tales are written by us
Igniting and Extinguishing.


Ellen Ricks

Ellen Ricks is a freelance writer living in Upstate New York. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from SUNY Potsdam She has been published in a number of presses, both in print and online.  She was the 2nd place winner in the 2017 Poetry Matters Project Lit Prize for Poetry in their adult category, and was a finalist for the 2014 Norman Mailer Creative Writing Award for 2-year colleges (creative nonfiction). She runs the fashion blog Sarcasm in Heels.  When not writing she is drinking black coffee, singing off key to musicals and arguing with her tarot cards.


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A Winter Walk: Fimbulwinter

“We will not turn from this fire.

We will not try to fix that which should break before us.”

Ritual poetry, from Ramon Elani

 

Vitoð ér enn, eða hvat? (Would you yet know more?)—Voluspo

 

My son looks up at the towering pylons above us.

“What is that, daddy?”

A cold wind blows across the barren wastes of the future and stings my cheeks and eyes.

“The ruins of a world that doesn’t know it’s already dead.”

We walk on through silent pines and boulders dripping with ice

And stand before a frozen waterfall, among wet woods of mistletoe.

Domed hills rise up around us, still and ominous.

Troll caves hidden among the moss and trees.

“Winter, stay forever.”

Come the frosty whispers of giants.

We say our bright blessings to the frozen things that watch us.

 

I bear the mark of the gap upon my thigh

And the cosmic egg inside a kernel of ice upon my left arm.

We come to the rushing void where the embers of fire blast forth

From the Sundering Land, home of the world-breakers,

To mix with the rimey spray that flows from the Mist World.

And in that terrible, yawning gulf where the two streams met

Shapes emerged from the drippings.

A man and a cow floating through the depths of eternity,

Creating worlds without end as they fell in and out of time.

The she-cow licked the salty ice until her coarse tongue met scarlet lips

And golden hair shone in the abyss of space.

Ice child. Armpit and toe children.

The titanic father slaughtered in a deluge of blood.

And the leeks grew from his guts and bones.

 

I seek a pool in the forest that is unfathomably deep,

And I seek the crone that sits by the side of the pool and protects its wisdom.

She bears the rune of loss.

I offer her my eye and she drops it into the pool.

With tears of blood I watch it fall, down through memory

Until it settles into the dust and sediment of aeons.

It will shine there in the murky gloom forever.

I see the bridges fall in the twilight that comes at the end of time.

I see the burning rim of the world.

And the house of silence reigns triumphant.

 

Suddenly the stillness is broken by the noise of train.

I hold my son in my arms and we stand upon a boulder,

Watching as the machine rushes past us.

“Where is it going, daddy?” My son asks.

“South,” I say. “South to the cities of the humans.”

“What does it carry?” He asks.

“It carries the bleeding heart of the forest.” I say.

It carries beaver dreams, the longings of the moose, the laughter of weasels.

I bend down to lick the old rotted trunk of an apple tree.

I taste the richness of decay and feel an unimaginable power growing inside of me.

I thank the tree for its gift and upon my arm,

The mark of hail burns with the fire of change and catastrophe.

 

We will not turn from this fire.

We will not try to fix that which should break before us.

Dark things stir among the bracken and the moss.

Memories, dreams, or prophecies of things to come.

Old gods that grimly await us upon the Plains of Adoration.

The ironwood throne lies empty and the world resounds.

Threads are woven together in the hollow beneath a tree.

Threads that bind, threads that lead us back to where we belong,

To the halls of the moon, like dogs we are all.

Sacraments made upon the beak of a night-owl.

Our weirds have been written.

In the mud and under the mold, we are caught in the web of fate.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father. He recently retired from being a cage fighter. He wanders in oak groves and speaks to trees. He casts the runes.

More of his writing can be found here.


 

In the Beginning was the Number

In the beginning was the number
Signs myriad in space infinite
To each their own and then some
For those lingering under the elder
In the murky waters of a hidden fen
Beyond the briny no man’s land by sea.

Ciphers were still tools to wield
With people’s hands – blunt or sharp,
To act as guardians to their charge
I plead with you: when did interest
Cease to mean to value. Owning moor
And more than can be accounted for.

Subtracting meaning – till – it shrivels
A husk that shields the highest bidder
On stale plains of Gods’ forsaken land
Greed is good unbounded and now made
Its dwellings among us. Cast them out
These bloated figures. Add the worthy.

Larger scales are weighing us down
Ever further in the fewest’s favour
Until the digits burn the precious too
And barter for the revolution’s waver
It will be the day that numbers count
And represent the open field they slew.

Our tethered lives

I watch from the creases in your gardens
So hollow with bright flowers
Birds of strange paradise.

The wild ones who lived namelessly
Across the hills retreat further and deeper
Into the last night of the woods – entangled
Stunted, haphazard growth
In endless pursuit of the light of his countenance.

The shining one who is so merciful here,
meanwhile, glares upon your empty garden;
Conjuring up seeds you would deny to raise their heads.
Only your chosen ones may grow in your makeshift desert.

You take the longer way round – of subsuming me.
Riding your boxes carrying strange, stale fruit
Left my sweetness rot and drip from the tree beyond your house.

I once stood my ground.
The cracks of your walls filled with clay
From a fickle stream
Smiling and chattering one day
Foaming with wrath on another

I only heard her when she raged
– and you who lived here, sought my refuge from her tempers.

Now strangers dwell and prunes lie
As a indeliberate offering to the beasts.
You live your tethered lives out here.
Do not eat my fruits and labour only for beauty,
A stale flavour of artificial subsistence.

*

I was away from home for a few weeks and the land started speaking to me with vigour. It was not the first time: the land has always spoken to me and she probably does to all of us. I must have silenced its call during my teenage years, for it was easier that way. In the last couple of years, her voice started bleeding through my thinner skin again. She speaks differently now. Once, it welcomed me as the child that I was, but now it is firm.

Have you ever raised your human voice

so that others may hear me?

The land that spoke went far back in its history with humanity – southwestern France. The painted caves here are among the oldest remnants of human culture in the world. Dolmen stand scattered on the hills – where people like us were once entrusted to her dark womb to be reborn one day. Perhaps the great age of our relations with her endowed her voice with more power in this place. Like anywhere else, the bond to the land has been gravely abused by humans, but some places preserve the feel of what the world was like when we lived with the land – and not just from it.

Dolmen near Prayssac, Lot, FranceThe land where I normally live is man-made, below sea level. Without human efforts it would be a salty marsh or even an estuary bed – as it was a thousand years ago. It is a lush, green, fertile land, but holds little history. It splashes and gurgles and makes you feel welcome. Its voice is so placid hardly anyone hears her; the noise of dense population drowns her out. It is only through a lot of time spent either gardening or walking that I eventually found my way back to a state where I was able to hear her at all. Trees are planted here and counted; their value weighed as community capital. That is, however, a lot better than no trees at all.

Her voice is different everywhere – but it speaks nonetheless.

Reclaiming a sustaining relationship

Having a truly sustaining relationship with the land is something fewer and fewer people can afford, especially in urban areas. You need land and time to work on it if we want to be talking about sustenance in earnest. In rural areas, many of the older people still have an innate connection to the land – living for a substantial part on what either they themselves or their neighbours’ produce. Even in younger generations it is present: in France I see it reflected, albeit by proxy, by the insistence of supermarkets to promote regional produce. In the Netherlands similar trends are visible: an increased interest in allotments, permaculture and homegrown food. It shows people know very well what they are missing. Some brave pioneers show us how much abundance is possible when one truly listens to the land.

Yet I cannot help thinking these hopeful currents in society are at present not strong enough to counteract the tidal wave of greed that scourges the so-called developed world. There is no money to be made in consuming less. So the rat race continues, even feeding on these natural sentiments. Even though so many of us would rather live a better life in close connection to nature, we are led to believe that this is something that can be bought. While the blackberries and the elderberries rot in the woods near my house, people buy plastic boxes of powerfoods, shipped in from Gods’ know where. The skills to preserve and grow food disappear from the general public when land is scarce, making us even more dependent than we already were.

To know her is to love her

Apart from the practicalities and great environmental cost of ferrying food to and fro around the globe, this way of consuming also estranges us from our birth right. And capitalism feeds on this estrangement, as anyone with their eyes open can see. There is an ineffable quality to growing your own food that cannot be reduced to a mere romantic nostalgia. In eating of our land we honour it – and share in its abundance. We literally form ties and alliances when we connect to the soil we live on. Even a pot of herbs on a balcony hallows the space and time we inhabit. In growing we share the mystery of life and offer the land the chance to show her magic. On a rational level, knowing your land and what it offers could one day become of paramount importance.

We would do well to remember that the land has no real need of us. She is in most cases older than us and will likely live on beyond us. The land is our host in both meanings of the word- she can receive us in a reciprocal relationship, she can be an active and generous advocate for us – and she can turn as a powerful force against us. We can choose to be tethered to the line of production, the way of harvesting without sowing. Or break the chain one wild apple at the time – and create the circumstances to grow and harvest while giving of ourselves at the same time.


linda-and-pukLinda Boeckhout

Religious by nature, Linda lives in Dutch suburbia with her family and pets. She is a gardener and occasionally blogs at theflailingdutchwoman.wordpress.com.

A Love Story At Three

What you say
Runs through my body for days
Which is why

May our mouths be curious to see you
Wrapping wet tongues around barbed wire
I guess I know how to proceed

Sometimes I’m angry
A-light but all right
Crying on the fire in my heart

I want to unpack the situation
Look the things like gifts in the mouth
I had a break

Lonely mountain forests
In deep snow, in your hand
My body

I’m nervous about grief
Why does my name sound unfamiliar to them?

I need to say that
Send that foulness back into rivers
Raging with our own
I could be a kind of me: so wash me clean

Tonight if you
Anyone else heard how you can inhabit other galaxies?

Like, I want to immigrate to that land of my body where I’m feeling love
The consequences will be in a while
Because it’s not to break my heart

Corazoncito…
Corona de rosas, cabeza rodeada
I wanted to burn something

Perhaps it was myself.

Fire is cleansing but I prefer water
In the word for a foreign river be your maps

(You know when you stay up real late worrying that you’re going to die before you can finish all the work you need to do?)

Ignore that stone in your heart
Take me in your mouth
Turn and turn again,

Be free.

Vanguard

most of the 150 crew never know where they are or where they have been
Trident Nuclear Programme, Wikipedia

You are lost at sea
wondering whether to push the button.

The radio went down four hours ago.
You did not hear the end
of The Archers.

No message was relayed
from Whitehall.

You feared the worst.

They took the keys to the safe,
gave you the Letter of Last Resort.

You read with captive eyes
the decision is yours:

to fire from who knows where
at who knows what,

never to return from anywhere,
to be forever lost.

You are not lost yet.

I am calling you back to Loch Long.


Lorna Smithers

Lorna Smithers profile picLorna Smithers is an awenydd, Brythonic polytheist and devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd based in Lancashire. She is the author of Enchanting the Shadowlands and editor of A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire Is Here. She blogs at Signposts in the Mist and is a contributor to Awen ac Awenydd and Dun Brython. She is also the editor of A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire Is Here

 

Prayer to the Storm God in a Time of Conflict

 

A flicker of white light across the sky

As lightning cuts the clouds. The god is here,

A sword blade flashes by

And all the sky comes clear.

As near and far the clashing shields

Across celestial battlefields

Cast echoes through the night, but don’t destroy.

The god is fighting for the simple joy

The sweetness of pure movement, the delight

Of perfect action, flawless, self-contained.

The sky is cut in two

This night.

Its blood pours down on us as rain.

God, let our deeds be true.

And as the cities fill with restless crowds

Like heavy, lightning-bearing clouds,

Grant us the strength to fight

Like sheets of blinding light

And let us take no joy in causing pain

But only cut the sky to bring the rain.

Christopher Scott Thompson

Christopher Scott Thompson is a writer, historical fencing instructor and founding member of Clann Bhride, the Children of Brighid. He was active with Occupy Minneapolis and Occupy St. Paul. His political writing can be found at https://alienationorsolidarity.wordpress.com/.


Christopher Scott Thompson is one of the many writers featured in A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire is Here. The digital edition is also on sale now.

Magical arts and sacred geographies

A few weeks ago I read an article by Maranda Elizabeth called: How Magic Helps Me Live With Pain And Trauma (read here). The article directly inspired the reflections below, as I want to highlight the importance of magical and artistic geographies when it comes to both magic and creativity.

Before I dive into the magic of geographies, I want to start with the importance of creating meaning, specifically with stories:

The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story. —Ursula K. Le Guin

The aliveness of story is essential to me. Art creates life. Through the magic of stories I learned that, hidden in mundane and ubiquitous objects are infinitesimal possibilities of interpretation. The first time I read the fragments of Sappho, the Anne Carson If Not, Winter interpretation, revealed to me the power of even the most broken and lost relics of literary archeology and antiquity. Sappho, an ancient lyric poet and musician, lived on the isle of Lesbos around 630 B.C. Her fragments, all that remains of her music and poetry not lost to history, “are of two kinds: those preserved on papyrus and those derived from citation in ancient authors.” (Carson xi) Yet those fragments, some extremely brief, evoke powerful insights into the past, the present, and the lives of the poet and her poems’ subjects. No matter how ephemeral, Sappho’s work, translated and untranslated, fragmented and less fragmented, has a life and power that continues to mesmerize authors, historians, poets and readers today:

yes! radiant lyre speak to me
become a voice (118)

messenger of spring
nightingale with a voice of longing (136)

someone will remember us
I say
even in another time (147)

Whether it’s music, writing, and even the most fragmented poetry, art creates powerful evocations, bringing the immaterial into existence through an experience with the material. It’s not only a process defined by reading, viewing, or experiencing the art as a “finished product”, the act of making art, the act of creation, is also infused with aliveness. We might learn to glimpse the making of art or magic in the landscapes around us, with or without obvious “authorship”. For instance, one could see magic in the delicacy of a lone wild iris, hidden away from sight, sheltered and nurtured by the shadows of a nondescript, graffiti-clad toolshed within an urban park.

doodling by Gersande La Flèche on 500px.com

The importance of landscapes to magic and creativity cannot be overstated, where the aliveness of stories meets the magic of place. As Tim Robinson wrote about his literary cartography:

These images I am offering you—the wild-goose chase of the alphabet in the sky, the waves whispering to each other under the currach, the donkey uttering seanchas from the well—are little myths, to tempt you to hear the language as if it were being spoken by the landscape. For me it was so from the beginning, as I shall explain. But is there any more defensible, objective truth in the idea of a deep connection between landscape and its language?

The names, languages and stories we use to describe landscapes around us are intrinsic to those landscapes, or at least our relationships with them. Maranda Elizabeth’s writing on magic as resistance and healing speaks emphatically of the magic of the city and the beings that inhabit them. When I use the word beings I mean those creatures, plants, objects, things, and locations— man-made or not— that end up forming the basis of the geography around us. An important such being in Maranda Elizabeth’s geography is their cane:

My first cane was black like tourmaline, a crystal used as an aid against jealousy, negative thoughts, destructive forces, and internal conflicts; I’d adorned it with Hello Kitty stickers. When I brought it home, I adjusted it to a comfortable height, anointed it with oils and prayers, and welcomed it into my life. It was a live creature come to help me out, lend me a hand, give me access to the spaces and activities that were slipping away. I used to walk for hours at a time, no destination in mind. I’m a city witch, I believe in city magic. I found signs of magic in plants growing through sidewalk cracks, symbols of encouragement in graffiti, charms and rocks found in alleyways, the sound of squirrels scurrying up old trees with fallen acorns, tiny free libraries on quiet streets. —Maranda Elizabeth

Through story, magic, and everyday use, the cane takes on a life of its own. The cane becomes a vehicle for artistic and magical expression. The cane transforms into a sword, a shield and a wand—in Maranda Elizabeth’s own words: a “magical object pressed to my palm, holding my body, giving me strength to move through the world when my bones and muscles are no longer enough.”

By creating stories and relationships, magical and artistic, with the cane, Maranda Elizabeth simultaneously creates or builds upon a relationship with their environment. Art and magic intertwine with place. Maranda Elizabeth’s article is full of magical and artistic cartography: naming and mapping their space and the myriad beings within.

The milk-crate furniture of my bachelor apartment contains jars filled with found objects from the city walks I can no longer take: petals and stones, pinecones, dried leaves. There’s a magic to these objects, too; they are reminders, tangible proof that I felt okay in the world for just a moment. —Maranda Elizabeth

The magical collection and curation that Maranda Elizabeth describes is not only a form of magical and artistic cartography, it’s also an artistic project that consists of creating art and meaning out of place and with place. This is a kind of magical artform that Anne Morris calls the expression of “a rare sacred geography that consists of a complex knowledge of place and sacred terrain”. (175) Maranda Elizabeth describe themselves as a city witch, and their love of city magic. This is extremely important to me, as I feel so many discussions about bioregional animism or relationships with the land prioritize those places that are described as rural or “natural”. The work of creating relationships with sacred geographies through art and magic should not be limited to the realms of the wild woods or faraway mountains, or even the dreamscape. These sacred geographies occur everywhere there is life and decay and being—especially in urban and domestic spaces. The material, mundane details of human life in the city influence art-making and storytelling. Though it is a landscape of a different kind, it’s no less powerful or significant, and comes with its own baggage, history, and terms of engagement.

The ecosystem, urban or rural, that we create relationships with not only directly shape our lives and art practices, but they also influence spiritual or magical workings, as Stuart Inman and Jane Sparks write about in their essay on Traditional Witchcraft: “A Gathering of Light and Shadows”, in the section “The Mythic Landscape”.

[T]he land becomes hallowed through working with it and new relationships, between the practitioner and the land, and its spirits, develops.

Choosing to consciously develop a working relationship with the environment that we inhabit can change our worldview in small but significant ways. We can reject misleading dialectics such as the opposition of “pristine” nature versus urban landscapes in order to hold more nuanced approaches and knowledge. Our artistic and magical practices, hopefully, become part of the landscape themselves and help us build towards more sustainable futures. The relationship-building between artist and earth, between magician and landscape, changes the way we view geography as something outside of ourselves and can bring us to accept that geography is a part of us, and we can accept that we are also a part of the environment we live in. As Becca Tarnas expressed recently with regards to environmental ethics: we are of this earth, and we are meant to be here. In creating relationships with spaces, land, and environments, we start thinking as creatures within an ecosystem rather than as higher-ups on a hierarchical chain of being. We also might, perhaps, move away from individualistic practices and seek to build community practices. It’s up to us, as the community as much as the individual, to find ways of healing, creating art, and practicing magic in a way that is constructive and coherent with the landscapes and geographies that surround us.


References & Further Reading

  • Anne Carson If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho 2002
  • Maranda Elizabeth How Magic Helps Me Live With Pain And Trauma The Establishment 16 April 2016
  • Stuart Inman and Jane Sparks, “A Gathering of Light and Shadows” Serpent Songs 1 May 2013, 40-58
  • Isabelle Stengers “Reclaiming Animism” e-flux journal #36 July 2012
  • Anne Morris “But to Assist the Soul’s Interior Revolution” Serpent Songs 1 May 2013, 173-182
  • Tim Robinson “Listening to the Landscape” Setting Foot on the Shores of Connemara & Other Writings 5 May 1997, 151-164
  • Becca Tarnas Talking Tolkien and Jung on Rune Soup 30 April 2016

Cover image is mine, a photograph of a shrine on a beach on Tancook Island taken in summer 2015.

This essay was originally posted at http://gersande.com/blog/magical-arts-and-sacred-geographies/.

Review: Soul of the Earth

Soul of the Earth: The Awen Anthology of Eco-Spiritual Poetry was released by Awen Publications in 2010. I first read it in 2011 after discovering the Eco-Bardic Movement. It has been republished this year with a new introduction by Kevan Manwaring (founder of Awen Publications) and an endorsement from Rowan Williams.

In his 2010 introduction, editor Jay Ramsay evokes the image of the earth from space ‘in its glowing blueness with its swathes of cloud, sea, and continents’ and says ‘The soul of a thing is visible to the naked eye. What we’re seeing is the Soul of the Earth’. He then outlines our environmental and spiritual crisis and the eco-spiritual response it necessitates.

Kevan Manwaring notes in his new introduction that the world is in a worse state now with this epoch’s designation as the Anthropocene, war in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Syria, the fragmentation of the EU and rise of Right-wing extremism. Therefore it is ‘more poignant than ever to think of ourselves as souls of the earth’ united by ‘the sheer unlikeliness and precariousness of our existence on this fragile blue jewel’.

As I read through the pages from this year’s position of heightened crisis, I found the poems continued to resonate and feel important. Some do the essential work of critiquing the materialistic worldview of consumer capitalism responsible for our destruction of the earth.

In ‘Running on Empty’, Rose Flint speaks of ‘chasing the easy speedy / routes of fields of fuel’, spilling babies, drawing crowds, ‘eating and spitting out riches’ before at the edge of nothingness she chooses to stop running and wrap her Prada jacket around Grandmother Earth.

Using Wile E. Coyote’s constant failure to catch Road Runner, Adam Horovitz cleverly depicts our futile pursuit of impossible endeavours: ‘a blurring swarm of legs / scrabbling at molecules of air’ until ‘Nature’ says ‘No.’ Lynne Wycherley’s ‘Substitute Sky’ laments our ‘core addiction’ to staring ‘at screens’ whilst ‘Outside the real world breathes, and dies.’

Other poems celebrate our relationship with the earth and suggest hope lies in finding new ways of perceiving and being. In ‘Green Drift’ Helen Moore shares the ‘bliss’ of crawling ‘into bed like a peasant, / with mud-grained feet, soil under the nails / of my toes’ ‘green rushing on the inside of my eyelids’ surrendering ‘like a drunken bee’ to ‘divine inebriation’.

Dawn Gorman finds hope and potential in the gift of an apple tree ‘spreading today / into the future / like pollen on bees’. Paul Matthews outlines a ‘Green Theology’ where ‘leaves catching light’ ‘are their own green messages’.

Several poems voice the stories of gods and spirits. Sedna and Cailleach are honoured. Charlotte Hussey’s ‘Elementals’ ‘scuttle about on this branch’ unconsidered. ‘Undines’ whose ‘little river’ has been bulldozed over churn ‘the air / as if it were water into an addled haze’.

A personal favourite is ‘God’s Underwear’ by Karen Eberhardt-Shelton. God wanders ‘around  the village / And across the moors / Lonely in his white boxers’. She offers him clothes but ‘only his fox-shadow sniffs / And those owl eyes never blink’. When she touches him, his form is empty; she ‘must become an animal, cast off / And then we will be together as a world’.

In these poems deities are perceived as part of or intrinsically linked to the natural world. Our current crisis affects the gods (and even God) and in particular the spirits tied to individual patches of land devastated by human activity.

In the afterword, Awen’s current publisher, Anthony Nanson highlights the importance of re-enchantment, which opens ‘the door to the possibility of the spiritual’ which may be conceived of ‘in brazenly metaphysical terms – as a Christian, a Druid or Buddhist will – or in a more psychological way’ as ‘the sense of the ‘and more’ in everything’.

Soul of the Earth is a valuable book, which reveals the earth to be ensouled/inspirited, and shows ways of reclaiming our spiritual relationship with nature and its multitude of deities from the hegemonic narrative of global capitalism.

I’d recommend it to all people with a love of the earth, and to those looking for poetry that goes beyond witticisms and clever wording to address the ecological and spiritual crisis that faces our modern world.