Posts Tagged ‘bardic’

The House of the Turtle

Being a lost chapter of the voyages of Odysseus, on his journey homeward after the Trojan War.

I. The Woman in the Flames

O Muse! I beg thee, Calliope, come hither, hear my cry;

Give grace to my tongue, and gift unto me the fire you bring;

Let no line of this, my tale, stumble inelegantly

And let not the spirit of the story desert me until it reaches its proper end.

Adrift for so many months after the departure from Troy;

They wandered, clever Odysseus and his crew:

At the mercy of Poseidon in his fury, blown hither at the sea-god’s command.

Escaping the land of those who devour the flower, faring out from the cave of the one-eyed giant,

Braving flesh-eaters and the sorceress with her magic and metamorphosis,

Deaf to the alluring song of the winged singers, they sailed.

At last coming to a tiny island which bore no terrors nor dangers.

There, becamped on the sands of the isle’s broad and beatific sands

They built a fire, heaped high with wood cast upon that shore by wind and wave.

And there, within the flames of that blaze, they saw shadows dancing,

Moving, twisting sinuously, suggesting form and shape unfamiliar

Yet somehow known and gladdening to their hearts.

Within those flames they saw the visage of their own captain, he who stood

Upon the sands of that isle begirt by waves, wind ruffling through

The tangles that crowned his brow, and swirling down to stir the sand on which they sat,

Scattering it into their eyes until he thought he saw

The fair form and face of one he’d loved, long before that cursed voyage.

At clever Odysseus’ side another stood: the shade of a warrior bold and brave,

Weary survivor of many a battle, skilled with sword and spear and shield,

His companion from Troy and survivor of the terrible quest to gain the Golden Fleece,

Nestor, transported there from Pylos by the whim of the gods.

One among had been entertaining his fellows with tales of home,

But ere he or any other could raise his voice to call out to either man there,

A sound echoed across the sands, clashing with the roaring waves: the creak

Of a door opening, and there within the fire did open a door,

And from its haunted space a girl appeared, and all gathered there did marvel.

Her eyes shone with the luster of the dawn, and the silken locks round her fair face gleamed;

No man but looked upon her that did not find her fairer than any ever he had seen before.

Even Helen, over whom so many men had died, did not seem more beauteous in their eyes,

And without a word or sound, she cast into the leaping flames the fan of feathers

She held in one slim hand.

“Which man here, to gain my company, would not brave the terrors of Hades’ realm itself?

For I shall name as coward any who fears to take the chance.”

Odysseus, beguiled by face and form so lovely, stepped forward to claim his chance;

Nestor, having grown wise after decades of battles, deigned to risk the few years he had left,

Nor would he anger Hera by spurning the wife he had at home, sweet Eurydice; he knew

That tactics and strategy were his greatest strength, not the folly of disaster.

And so the captain stepped forth; the maiden, with the grace of one

Of the stags of wild Artemis at her rest in Delos, rushed to meet him,

Wrapping her alabaster arms round his broad shoulders;

As when he had been seduced by Circe, and Calypso, so now he succumbed to her charms.

And if such a choice was wise, it is for lesser mortals to say.

For the teller of tales may not make that decision; his tongue falls silent,

And no more will the audience hear the tale.  For is it not his task

To enlighten, and lead those who listen to ponder, and not by more blunt words

Force the answers upon them, rather than letting them come to those truths of their own accord?

The end of this tale is left unsung; gold we gift to the teller of tales, in hopes that

He will return to end the story, or to share another; but such a gift cannot be purchased

With mere coin; and now, O Muse, I beg you, listen on, for I continue the tale

That I have been commanded to recount.

II. The House of the Turtle

Within me, let insight and passion combine, O Muse, I beg of thee:

With every hue let me paint the tale, and with all parts of order and glory

Bring charm to the words I offer up to you;

Let your will be as a shield to hold back the grey dull chains

Of grief and desolation and gloom; no greater gift, nor any

Further art will I beg of you, though within the telling of this tale

I confront the unknown, so immense and shadowy that all words

Seem inadequate to paint the picture I have been told to tell.

Within this tale, heroes strive and fail, and in their endeavors also win

For themselves and for others a more lasting glory

As they set out on the journey

To the House of the Turtle.

At night, with no more radiance than the flame of one small tallow lamp,

He counts the stars that glimmer in the vast sky above;

Though most are too weak to recognize, one alone shines down from its accustomed place:

The brilliance of the clearest diamond in Aphrodite’s gleaming crown

That appears first closest to that moment

When Helios’ chariot first appears in the sky, and which outshines all others.

In that portion of the sky, past the light of the dog’s tail,

By which all mariners set their course, we hear the song of insects,

Their sweet voices rising in a melody never before known.

The House of the Turtle lies within the shadow of the moon,

And it is to that distant destination, by that road we travel,

And which we shall arrive at, when the journey is finished.

The captain cannot understand the Turtle’s Lord,

Though he has been guided by that friend of man many times before;

Clever Odysseus, for all his wiles, is as a child before He who stands at the final gate,

And the captain knows not if this road marks the beginning of a new journey

Or the end of an old one.

The Lord of the Turtle beckons; the ship lies waiting,

And the ocean stretches before the sailors as dawn comes

And the ship’s sails boom as the wind rises to fill them,

And the sun rises to show the way.

III. The Last Stop Before Journey’s Beginning

Penelope understands:

There is no place, while her lord and love is away from his home,

That knows the light that he carries about him when he is present.

Instead, even the tiniest of corners and doorways

Is shrouded with darkness, as if Helios’ chariot had fallen from the sky,

And one had come to collect the shade of the deceased

For the final journey.

Even the plainest fact is forgotten, or secreted away,

In the absence of Ithaca’s lord; with no firm ground on which to stand,

Or truth to cling to, only one last comfort remains:

The star that points to the House of the Turtle.

The wings of the Moirae echo like the crack of Zeus’ thunderbold,

Heralding the storm;

And in her heart, she knows: clever Odysseus will return home

Only if he first finds his way to the House of the Turtle.


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The Yule ritual for my Grove, Wild Onion Grove, was scheduled for Sunday, December 18th at 2 PM; originally, it was being held at the Life Force Arts Center, but a conflict required it to be relocated to a member’s home.  Potluck to follow the ritual.

I arrived at the house with my husband at 2, only to find we were early because the ritual had been rescheduled to 3 PM and I hadn’t heard. But our hosts were exceptionally gracious, and we sat on the couch and watched TV (a program on the History Channel about Egypt and archaeology) as they finished getting ready.

The deity of the occasion was, of course, All-Father Odin; my husband is normally present at these rituals (I have never learned how to drive, or had a license, and we live a good hour outside of Chicago proper), but doesn’t much take part.  However, heathen that he is, he actually ended up participating in this one, which made me happy.

People began to trickle in right around 3 — the other three regular members of the Grove who I know fairly well, two others that had been at the Samhain rite (one of whom brought her young son), Joan (the owner of the Life Force Arts Center), and several others I met for the first time.

Gatekeeper for the ritual was Heimdall; bardic deity was Bragi.  As with the Samhain ritual most recently, and at least one other before that one, I was asked to take that part of the rite; our host had asked well beforehand, and as I’d recently finished writing a poem about Bragi to submit to a devotional anthology in honor of Bragi and Idunn, I found it fairly easy to write something for the rite (which I’ll reproduce below).  I also took the slot for one of the Three Kindreds, that of the nature spirits (who I am building an increasing connection to, but that’s for a future post).

Invocation to Bragi as Bardic:

Hail unto Bragi, whose name has given meaning

To the tales we tell of our deeds and our creations!

We ask that you join us here today if you are willing,

Kindle the bright spark in our spirits that

Gives the beginning to such deeds and creations,

Under your guidance, let us be bold;

Under your watch, let us be inspired;

And with the spark you kindle,

Bring depth, passion, and wisdom to

All we say and do here today.


I thought the ritual went very well.  As part of the praise offerings, I brought a poem I’d written for Odin (which has been published in the Troth’s magazine, Idunna) titled “Odin’s Call”:

Like the spider spinning his web in a high wind,

You were persistent, tapping again and again

At the door to my heart and head, until I listened,

Opened the door, and let you in.

I thought I had nothing to do with the gods of the North,

Preferring to walk another path, thinking my life

Already too complicated and confused to warrant

Following any others.

But you would not accept my refusal, sending

Little signs and omens: two ravens following

My car, a gray cat adopted on Wednesday who wanders

And will not shut up: so like you.

What need had I for your guidance?  I was stubborn,

Did not want to take the steps to meet you,

Knowing how much you would demand of me,

Not knowing whether I could give it.

After a hard lifetime, I tend to think myself unworthy

Of such attention, and you confused me, chasing after

Me so relentlessly; I preferred to think I only imagined it,

Because what would you want with one such as myself?

I don’t ask those questions any more—or if I do, I know

That, while I might not be able to answer them, you must

Have your reasons.  Better, then, to serve you best as I can,

Though what gifts I have to offer are little enough.

These verses will win me no friends.  Your followers are a

Bold and boasting lot, whereas I have always striven to be

Meek and mild, hiding my lights away, better to go unnoticed,

Better to avoid strife, sorrow, and conflict.

But hiding from you did not work, and so I am here,

Hoping that some day I will understand why you wanted me,

Knowing because you did that there must be more that I can offer

Than the nothing I believe myself to be.

I also brought a feast of cookies — some for the potluck, and some (mead cookies and Swedish butter cookies) as part of the praise offerings.

Almost everyone present shared stories of how they got involved with Odin, or encounters with him; I told the story of how I’d finally accepted him and the Norse pantheon, which I’ve told here in an earlier post, and was pleased and surprised when even my normally-reticent and taciturn husband shared some of his own moments with the All-Father.

Me (in the white blouse) next to my husband Doug in the black Germany hoodie. I don't know everyone's name, but the white-haired lady speaking is Joan Forest Mage, and the gentleman in the red top is Chris, our senior druid.


(Picture by Caroline Farrow.)

The takeaway from the ritual were hand-painted rune cards done by one of the Grove members.  There were enough present for everyone to take two; I was utterly unsurprised to see that the first card I chose (they were all face-down so no one could tell what card they were going to draw) was the rune Ansuz, which is Odin’s rune.  As if I needed reminding that He had claimed me (even though He has to share me with the other deities I worship).  The second card I drew was Fehu, which tends to mean wealth, money, and riches.  (Something I don’t think any of us would mind having a little more of, heh!)

After the ritual had completed — with a fairly good, if somewhat ambiguous oracle (but then, Odin’s like that…prone to more than one meaning in the messages he gives) — we had dinner.  There was lasagna with garlic bread, a veggie plate, lots of munchies and snacks, my own cookies, homemade oatmeal-raisin bars and gingerbread, and plenty more.  There was wonderful conversation, jokes and more stories of past pagan and ADF festivals (which cemented the desire I have to attend Wellspring, eventually…some day…)

We weren’t the first to leave, but we weren’t the last; it was an hour’s drive back, and alas, my husband had work in the morning.  I would have liked to stay longer, but I’ll see my Grove-mates again in a few weeks, when we have the planning meeting for our Imbolc ritual.

And this year’s Imbolc ritual will mark the completion of the circle, because 2011’s Imbolc ritual was the first ADF gathering I attended. More than ever, I feel like I belong among these people who started out as friendly strangers and have ended up as friends. And although I’m still a good long way from completing my DP work, I feel like I belong here.

Later edit: here is the link for my grove’s blog entry about the Yule ritual:


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Bardic work

I’ve been writing now for thirty-seven years.

Given that a fair number of people — even the ones I only know online, who have never met me in real life — know that I’m 44 years old, I’m used to facing a certain amount of skepticism when I make this statement.  But it’s the truth.

I don’t say that I’ve been published for 37 years; that would obviously be fiction. (Heh.)  But I started reading when I was three; my mother taught me using flash cards.  Our family couldn’t afford pre-school for me, and she wanted me to be ready for kindergarten.  I loved reading, but I was irked fairly often when I couldn’t find books or stories I found entertaining enough.

Writing for myself seemed the logical answer to that problem.

I started with poetry; I wrote my first poems when I was seven.  A handful of them were “published” in my second-grade “lit magazine”.  I use quotation marks liberally here; the lit magazine was typed up by my teacher, Xeroxed, hand-stapled, and handed out to every student’s parents.  I’d thought those words long gone, but my mother — pack-rat that she is — saved them, as she’s seemingly saved almost everything I showed her at that age.

Short stories started following the poetry when I was 14.  By the time I was in high school, I was writing non-stop — in class (much to the annoyance of most of my teachers outside of English classes), after school, on weekends.  It became enough of a pleasure for me that my parents included it in the “fun stuff” I wasn’t allowed to do if I screwed up and got grounded for it.  (Reading, too – my parents were excessively strict, even given the time and society they were part of.)  My high school’s literary magazine was a higher-class version of the one from second grade; typeset on the same machine the school newspaper was, printed in multiple, bound by machine.  The quality of the works inside it was generally higher.  At that age, I very much wanted to be the female Stephen King, and it shows; all the works I had published in “Shining Stars” between sophomore and senior year are horror, short little vignettes of 1 -3 pages with Twilight Zone-esque twists at the end of most of them.

I discovered fanfic in high school, too, and wrote thousands — possibly tens of thousands — of pages of it in conjunction with my best friend.  Our preferred venues were original Star Trek; Star Wars; Indiana Jones; a pastiche sword-and-sorcery world that meshed the characters and settings of Conan/Red Sonja, Ladyhawke, Krull, Hawk the Slayer, The Sword and the Sorcerer, Labyrinth, and Legend; and the X-Men.

Even at that age, I was leaning heavily toward magical and occult themes; I wrote a 100-page fantasy novelette that borrowed heavily from Greek and Norse mythology, which at least one teacher found enjoyable, and the poetry I was still writing at that time dealt with mythological themes quite often.

I finally got professionally published in 2008, working under contract with White Wolf, an RPG company, on new material for their game Scion, in which the players portray characters who are the sons and daughters of the ancient, pre-Christian gods. The original material showcased six pantheons: the Egyptian, the Greek, the Norse, the Loa of Voodoo, the Shinto deities, and the Aztec gods.  The new material expanded that line-up, offering three new pantheons for players to enjoy: the Chinese, the Hindu, and the Tuatha de Danann.  I was hired to co-write the material on the Irish deities with a full-time writer they employed whom I had originally friended on LiveJournal. The book ended up being called The Scion Companion, and it not only taught me a lot about working under deadlines and with strict guidelines, it also ended up being deeply spiritually satisfying for me.  Although I know plenty of pagans who disdain RPGs as “silly” and “shallow”, I know just as many who first encountered deities other than the Judeo-Christian one through the material on pagan deities available to players who wanted to play clerics in D&D, or through swords and sorcery movies (such as Clash of the Titans), or comic books like Thor.  Pop culture is an incredibly broad and diverse field with a wide array of opportunities for people to first “meet” the gods and take an interest in them, and if something as shallow as a comic book or role-playing game is the ember that sparks an interest in paganism and leads a person to look further into the subject — with more historically accurate research material — then I’m happy to be part of it.

That opportunity led to others with the company, including the chance to work on two books that are part of their Changeling: the Lost game, which deals with the Fair Folk in a much more historically accurate way than Disney films and Amy Brown art.  Given the ties that the Fair Folk have to the gods in a number of myths and legends, I was once again delighted to be helping create a potential “gateway” introduction to paganism for new players.

I was also beginning to see publication of my poetry in a number of pagan venues at about this same time, and in 2010 I had my first professional publication of a short story (“professional” in that I was paid for it, with cash).  This year, I started writing a recurring nonfiction column on herbalism for the Troth’s magazine Idunna; I have two columns under my belt so far (the second comes out in the next issue), and plan on continuing to write them for the magazine as long as they want to continue printing them.

I feel very heavily called to bardic work; some of the deities I work with most closely are considered patrons of poetry, music, and drama — Brigid, Apollo, Bragi, Dionysus.  I intend to start up the Bardic Guild study program as soon as I have finished my Dedicant pathwork and been confirmed in its completion.

Below is a partial listing of the writing I have had published in the past; it emphasizes works done on or with pagan themes.



Work on the Tuatha de Danann pantheon, published in The Scion Companion, published by White Wolf Publishing in 2009.

Work for Swords at Dawn and Dancers in the Dusk, books for the Changeling: the Lost RPG line, published by White Wolf Publishing in 2009.

My poems “Lady of the Cedars” and “The Death of Actaeon” are in the anthology Unbound, published in May 2009 by Bibliotheca Alexandrina. (This anthology also contains my short story, “Three Arrows”.)

My poem “Pomegranate”, is in the anthology Jabberwocky 4.

My poem “Persephone’s Dilemma” won the Naukrateia writing contest held by Neos Alexandria.

My poem “Herne,” was published at Eternal Haunted Summer in their Winter Solstice 2009 issue; it has since been accepted for publication in the Horned God devotional anthology Hoofprints in the Wildwood, by Gullinbursti Press, which was published in 2011.

My poem “Odin’s Call” was printed in issue #81 of The Troth‘s magazine Idunna.

My poem “In Utgard-Loki’s Hall” was printed in issue #83 of The Troth‘s magazine Idunna.

My poem “A Solstice Carol” was published in the December 2010 issue of the Chicago Pagan Pride newsletter and can be found here (scroll almost all the way down to the bottom).

My poem “Gudrun’s Lament on Her Deathbed” was printed in issue #85 of The Troth‘s magazine Idunna.

My poem “Apology to Hekate” has been printed in the anthology Bearing Torches, published by Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

My story, “Washerwoman”, was accepted for publication in the anthology The Phantom Queen Awakes; the anthology was released by Morrigan Books in February 2010.

Three essays on herbalism — “Herbal Pest Control”, “Herbs During Pregnancy: Do’s and Don’t’s”, and “Urban Herbalism”, plus an interview with the High Steward of the Troth, Phyllis Steinhauser (the head of my Kindred) — for the upcoming Troth Almanac (currently untitled.)

And of course, my poem, “Invocation to Brigid at Imbolc”, which is slated for publication in Oak Leaves #55 (barring space issues).

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