In the Shadow of the Spires   Leave a comment

dooods!

our little anthology and the upcoming live reading are getting some press attention!

you should totally come. goodies will be handed out!

🙂 khairete

suz

Posted September 17, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Antigone the SJW   2 comments

Dears! My latest at LSQ is live. Check it out!

Antigone is probably not a lot of fun to go out drinking with. In addition to being morally upright, devoted to family, committed to doing the right thing no matter how difficult and devoutly pious, she is inflexible, judgmental, argumentative, and maybe even a little priggish.

Antigone’s play was written by the great playwright Sophokles who was famous for creating the “tragic hero”, a character faced with a crisis in which disaster can only be averted by compromise which entails a total betrayal of something they hold supremely important. They refuse to accept the compromise despite persuasion, threats, or violence, resulting in being termed “deinos”, a term which means terrible, wondrous and strange, and ending in destruction. Most Sophoklean heroes are both admirable and repellent, and Antigone is no exception.

She stands in splendid isolation.

Antigone’s story is set in Thebes, a city viewed by golden age Athens as a place where conflicts and dilemmas get pushed to their limits and resolution is impossible. Its concerns with polis (city-state) politics is especially interesting considering its first production during the height of Athens’s glory, then resurfacing sixty years after Sophokles’s death when the famous orator Demosthenes read to his political opponent Kreon’s speech on the proper loyalties of a citizen. Even Aristotle quotes the play repeatedly in his treatise Politics.

Antigone and her siblings are the children of Oedipus and his mother/wife Jocasta, whom he married with neither of them knowing the other’s identity. This family is ill-omened right out of the gate. The two boys, Eteokles and Polynices, are dead, having just killed each other in the battle for the soul of Thebes told more fully in Aeschylus’s Seven Against Thebes. Antigone and her sister Ismene are left to mourn them as their uncle Kreon takes over the rulership of Thebes. His first act as king is to declare Eteokles, who fought on behalf of Thebes to hold the throne, a hero, and Polynices, who attempted to enforce his claim on the throne by attacking Thebes, a traitor. Eteokles is to be buried with full honors, Polynices to be left unburied for the scavengers. Anyone who attempts to bury him will be stoned to death.

Antigone is having none of it.

She tells her sister that she plans to defy Kreon and bury Polynices, in accordance with both divine law and family obligation. Ismene, while sympathetic, is afraid of the anger of the new king, and points out that they owe him their fealty both as head of their oikos (household) and their ruler. Antigone flares up at this and declares that even if her sister has a change of heart and wants to help, Antigone won’t let her, pointing out that “Even if I die in the act, that death will be a glory,” and, “I have longer to please the dead than to please the living here.”

Ismene, representing the obedience expected of a good ancient Greek maiden, fears for Antigone and begs her to at least do the burial honors on the sly. Antigone sneers at her for her cowardice, adding, “I will suffer nothing as great as death without glory,” before sweeping out on a wave of self-righteousness, leaving poor Ismene to flounder in her wake, meeping her terror and love for her sister.

Kreon is a bloviator. In his declaration of his own kingship he extols his own virtues as a man who has been tested and demonstrated amply his own character, principles, and judgement, as well as mansplaining how anyone who places friendship over patriotism is worthless. “Such are my standards. They make a city great.” Even the admiring chorus, consisting of the elderly citizens of Thebes, is a little anxious about the absolutist statements. Their concern gets them browbeaten into abject accord with their king.

When a messenger enters and, after some hemming and hawing, delivers the news that an unknown person has performed the rites over Polynices’s corpse, the chorus suggests timidly that it might be the work of the gods. Kreon erupts in fury that anyone could defy his edict, let alone think the gods would care about the disposition of the body of a traitor. He leaps to the unfounded assumption that his soldiers have been bribed, and promises the hapless sentry who brought the news that unless he produces the traitor, Kreon will “String you up alive and wring the immortality out of you.” After being denied the opportunity to speak in his own defense, the sentry declares that he’s heading for the hills, leaving the chorus to mutter about doom and evil portents.

But the sentry is back before too long, hauling a bound Antigone with him. He tells his irascible king that he and his men were wronged by Kreon’s harsh words, but since they caught the real perpetrator in the act they felt duty-bound to bring it to Kreon’s attention. He adds that nonetheless he’s decamping, as he wants nothing more to do with Thebes’s jerk-in-chief.
He gives the story in gory detail, describing the slimy, softening corpse and its smell. A dust storm blinded them, but when it passed they saw the wailing girl, scooping up dry dust to scatter over her brother and pouring libations from a fine bronze urn onto the corpse. She did not flinch from arrest nor make any attempt to lie or evade her captors. When Kreon demands she speak she shrugs and says, “I did it. I don’t deny a thing.” She informs her uncle that she is obeying divine law which supersedes that of a mere mortal king and that dying will be a small pain compared with the dishonor Kreon offers her brother.

The chorus shake their heads, mumbling about how like her father Oedipus she is—wild, passionate, unable to bend in adversity. But Kreon vows to break her, as tempered iron, spirited horses, and slaves all break when their lord and master lowers the boom. He accuses her of insolence, not just for her actions but her lack of shame over them, then whirls on poor Ismene and accuses her of complicity.

Ismene is in hysterics but Antigone is coldly scornful. She asks what, other than her arrest and execution, her uncle wants of her and snaps at him to stop moralizing and get on with it. She mocks the chorus for being wimps and accuses Kreon of being power-drunk, causing Kreon to shout, “Go down below and love, if love you must. Love the dead! While I’m alive no woman is going to lord it over me.”

Antigone will not even allow her devastated sister to share her fate. “Never share my dying, don’t lay claim to what you never touched. My death will be enough.” At this point Ismene lets us know that Antigone is actually engaged to Kreon’s son Haemon by pleading with Kreon to consider this, but Kreon sniffs that “There are other fields for him to plough.” He has guards take the girls away as the chorus moans about generational curses.

Haemon tries to soften his dad’s position by promising filial obedience, which does indeed please the king. Kreon tells his son that being married to a disobedient woman would be a misery and to spit her out and let her make her bed among the dead. Haemon points out that although unmaidenly, Antigone’s position is noble. That while he’s proud of his dad, maybe just a smidgeon less self-righteousness might not hurt, and that no one is infallible. A bitter, sharp exchange follows, ending with Kreon accusing his son of being a woman’s slave, and Haemon calling Kreon crazy and hinting darkly that Antigone’s death will cause another death. Kreon splutters that he’ll bring the dang girl out then and there and kill her in front of Haemon. Haemon rushes out yelling that Kreon will never see him again. When the chorus prophesies that Haemon might do something stupid in his rage, Kreon replies wearily that nothing his son can do will save the girls. The chorus, aghast, asks if he’s really planning to execute both of his nieces. A crack appears in his armor of fury and he commutes Ismene’s sentence and changes Antigone’s from stoning to being walled up in a cave.

Left alone to ponder all of this awfulness, the chorus talks about the terrible, destructive power of Love. When Antigone is escorted back to stand before them, they bemoan having to watch her go to her fate while she weeps that her bridal bed will be that of Hades, not her longed-for husband. They all agree that this is a continuation of Oedipus’s ghastly story of passion, incest, and murder. Kreon, entering just in time to hear this last, counters with, “Your own blind will, your passion has destroyed you.” Denying her last request to say goodbye to her loved ones, he orders the guards to take her away and immure her swiftly. She is dragged out lamenting her unjust fate, calling upon the gods to witness that she never transgressed, and to mete out to her tormentors a fate at least as horrible as her own.

The blind seer, Tiresias, tells Kreon that the gods are angry with him and that perhaps he should rethink some of his recent decisions. After a furious argument in which Kreon accuses Tiresias of taking bribes, the seer storms out. But Kreon is shaken despite himself. He tells the chorus that he will go himself and set Antigone free, leaving them to praise Dionysos in their relief.

But it’s short-lived.

A messenger enters and tells them that despite all the great things Kreon has done for Thebes he is not to be envied. Kreon’s wife Eurydice comes along and asks why all their faces are so long. The gruesome details unspool. The messenger went with Kreon to Polydices’s poor disintegrating body and washed and buried it properly. Upon returning to the city, they heard a long wail, which Kreon recognized as the voice of his son. They rushed to Antigone’s tomb and dragged away the rocks, only to find her hanging from a noose made from her own veils. Haemon clung to her, shrieking, but when Kreon tried to pull him off, Haemon spat at him and lunged at him with a sword. Kreon ran away and Haemon threw himself upon the sword, clutching his wife-to-be’s body to him. Upon hearing this dreadful news, Eurydice leaves without saying a word.

As the chorus and the messenger speculate uneasily on the queen’s next move, Kreon enters with Haemon’s body on a bier. As they all mourn, another messenger arrives to deliver the news that Eurydice has also committed suicide. Her body is brought out on an “ekkyklema” (a “rolled-out thing”). Confronted with all this death, Kreon is overcome with horror and grief. “Come, let it come! The best of fates for me that brings the final day, the best fate of all! Oh quickly now—so I never have to see another sunrise. Whatever I touch goes wrong—once more a crushing fate’s come down upon my head.”

The play ends with the chorus saying, “Wisdom is by far the greatest part of joy.”

Antigone is an early Rosa Parks, performing a dangerous act of civil disobedience. She undervalues her duty to her polis, maybe, but then we have to look at Kreon undervaluing his to family and oikos. Kreon believes that citizens must obey laws even if they disagree or there will be anarchy; Antigone that individual understanding of right behavior supersedes human law or there will be totalitarianism. Finding a balance is no less a problem today than it was in 5th century BCE Athens.

https://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Mortals/Antigone/antigone.html

https://www.ancient.eu/Greek_Theatre/#:~:text=Greek%20theatre%20began%20in%20the,influenced%20Hellenistic%20and%20Roman%20theatre.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antigone

POSTED IN WAIFS, WOLVES & WARRIORS – WOMEN IN GREEK MYTHOLOGYTAGGED ANTIGONE, CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
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Posted September 16, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Book Design for Pagan/Polytheist Titles   Leave a comment

via Book Design for Pagan/Polytheist Titles

 

Dver is scaling back her Winged Words Book Design, so contact her through the method she describes here if you want her to do your book. I’m crazy about the way she produced my book, I absolutely love the way it looks.

Khairete

Suz

Posted August 8, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Hestia the Enigma   Leave a comment

dears, my newest LSQ blog post is live! this month the focus is the Fire-Hearted Hestia.

Hestia the Enigma

enjoy!

i’m going to get back to actual blogging here before too long. it’s weird how i’ve been so completely not ready to do it all during the pandemic thus far.

Posted July 17, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

In the Shadow of the Spires   2 comments

dears! my writers’s group has a new book out, an anthology of noir tales set in Frederick like the last one, Intersections. this one is called ‘In the Shadow of the Spires’ and i’m delighted to have a story in it, one i like a lot. if you happened to read Intersections and my story ‘Portals’, you’ll recognize the protagonists of this one, as they’re introduced briefly there.

In the Shadow of the Spires: A Collection of Noir Tales from the Frederick Writers Salon by [D. M. Domosea, Tisdale Flannery, Dale Grove, Michael Harris, Amanda Linehan, JJ Mikel, Anna O'Keefe, A. Raymond, Leslie Skyrms, Suz Thackston]

want a little sample? mine’s the first story in the book so you won’t have to scroll far.

https://read.amazon.com/kp/card?asin=B08BY6Q8WS&preview=inline&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_NYi.EbGSVN4XK

🙂 khairete

suz

Posted July 1, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Ariadne, the Cretan Princess   2 comments

i’m slow on the uptake, as i’ve been writing for LSQ for a couple of years now, but it just occurred to me that i should repost my blogs for them here in my own blog.

duh.

Ariadne, the Cretan Princess

Ariadne, the Cretan Princess

Ariadne did not respond to my Facebook friend request. In fact, none of the usual methods of introduction worked, not the hopeful offerings left in the orchard, not the poring over source material and internet links, not standing under the starlight and chanting her name.

Finally, after several fruitless weeks, I tried something different. I carried raw milk and a chocolate truffle into the almost-full moonlight, poured out the libation onto the roots of the Dionysos pine tree and began to dance.

Her story ran through my mind like brilliant threads on a loom. You know it. The Cretan princess who fell in love with the dashing hero, Theseus, defying her father to help him. The one who devised the ingenious method of bringing her lover safely back through the labyrinth by giving him a ball of yarn, which he unrolled, then followed back out after killing the Minotaur.

What sort of relationship did she have with her monstrous half-brother, with his man’s body and bull’s head and carnivorous appetite? How about her bloodthirsty father, Minos, who had the labyrinth built to contain his stepson, then demanded an annual tribute from Athens of boys and girls to feed the beast? And what of her sexually adventurous mother, Pasiphae, who slaked her lust for Minos’ prize bull by donning a cow suit? Was Theseus a real love for her or just a girlish infatuation with a famous hero?

Most importantly—did he abandon her, did she die, or did she really become the cherished bride of Dionysos? Accounts vary wildly. Some say Theseus absentmindedly sailed off, leaving her sleeping on the beach. Others insist that she was pregnant and her lover wasn’t interested in becoming a daddy. There are accounts that claim she died in childbirth, others that Artemis took her down with her deadly arrows. But how then did she end up with her own constellation?

Unanswered questions spun in my mind, then whirled off into the night sky as I danced. All conscious thought slipped away, bit by bit, as the spiral dance took possession of me. The dog and cats kept pace with me for a while, then dropped out and went about their individual night journeys as I danced and danced, in front of the shrines, between the trees, a complex pattern through the orchard, around the house, down the driveway, up onto the deck with the early mosquitoes buzzing in my ears.

Eventually, I realized I was not alone; Ariadne whirled beside me, spun circles around me, pirouetted past me, casting a silvery shadow on the cold grass.

The dance took all my breath, leaving none for speech. We danced together, the Cretan princess and I, the wild wind blowing our hair across our faces, Orion’s Belt pointing to the pure radiance of Venus, the moon tossed amid the branches of the orchard trees who danced along with us.

The princess, the bride, the goddess is forever young, but I am old and heavy-limbed. Finally I could dance no more, and collapsed on the bench at the Demeter shrine to catch my breath. Eyes glinting, Ariadne prowled around me, her hair in tangled ringlets, dangling past her hips. She was so heart-stoppingly innocent, a lamb, a kitten, so unaware and at risk in the windswept night. I wanted to cradle and protect her, take her inside, keep her safe, wall her away from wild things and spirits who would prey upon her heedless gaiety.

But a glimpse of those wide topaz eyes held me back. For all her innocence, she is supremely dangerous. A young tigress, to be admired and even adored, but never approached without the full understanding that she might kill you. It could be deliberate, or absent-minded, or even affectionate, an annoyed swat with razor claws. She might be sad when she wanted to dance or play with you again, but there would never be remorse, for there would be no malice. She might dance ecstatically with you, exuberant and mesmerizing, then become over-excited and take a bite out of you. She would dance away, laughing, with crimson lips and bright eyes, then return and prod your bleeding corpse, baffled at your limpness.

But so sweet. So compellingly, irresistibly sweet.

No wonder Theseus fled from her in terror when he realized that the amoral feral nymph he had mistaken for a mere princess might kill him in his bed. No wonder Dionysos fell in love with her and crowned her his bride. She’s the epitome of a maenad.

My cats prowled with her, wary but intrigued. The dog pressed tightly against my legs, trembling slightly.

The princess did not speak to me. She pulled my hair, tugged at my hand, tried to entice me into dancing with her again, but the fire had drained from my limbs, and all I could do was watch her in wonder. She bared her teeth at me, and for a long, chilling moment I thought she might go for my throat, but she turned away and wandered disconsolately between the cherry trees, a silver-white blossom drifting down to catch in her hair. The cats followed her, and for a while the four of them danced together, leaving dark prints in the silvered dew.

The dog whined, looking up at me pleadingly. I looked down at her and rubbed her ears, scratching under her collar.

When I looked up, Ariadne was gone. The cats were making their way back to us with delicate steps.

I looked up at the moon-bright sky, finding the Big Dipper’s handle and following it down toward the north-east horizon, where Ariadne’s constellation, the celestial crown, was just starting to blaze.

https://www.theoi.com/Georgikos/Ariadne.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariadne
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ariadne-Greek-mythology

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Posted May 18, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Thargelia 2020   Leave a comment

well, that was ominous.

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Posted April 30, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

He’s Back!   8 comments

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I broke my Apollon statue a couple of years ago. It shattered into so many pieces I didn’t think I’d ever get them all swept up. I cried as I picked up and saved the intact pieces—his head, his shield, his wings, his feet—and wondered how I could have been so careless, and how I could get back on the right side of things after such a stark expression of disapproval.

And it was carelessness that did it. While I was cleaning the shrine I set the statue on a weight bench with a soft seat. Bad idea. There was just enough bounce from the floor as I walked around that the statue tipped off and smashed on the hard linoleum floor.

The statue came from Dver and is deeply infused with her years of dedicated Apollon cultus. I checked with a mantis I trust, Sannion, who did at least reassure me that, while there was clearly a strong communication, it wasn’t being cast into the outer darkness.

But a big fat wake-up call.

The tenderly gathered pieces sat in a bag in my craft room (which is kind of a joke since I don’t actually do crafts) while I tried to figure out what to do with them. Fire or burial were the only appropriate disposal methods, but I didn’t want to dispose of the pieces.

Then I met a silver sorceress, Michelle, who makes beautiful art and jewelry that we sell at the shop where I work. She made me some custom pieces, a stunningly beautiful citrine point adorned with a silver medallion of a woman morphing into a wolf (for which I had different plans, but as soon as I saw it I knew it was for Artemis) and gifts for beloveds. It slowly came to me that perhaps she could find the right chunk of stone and affix the head, or the shield, or the wings to it. She’s super witchy and intuitive, and I knew I could trust her instincts.

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So a few months ago, when I knew she’d be coming into the shop, I brought her my sad bag of bits and asked her to work her magic. Her brows drew down as she took them out, and turned them over in her hands, then her big wicked sunny smile flashed out.

“I can fix this,” said she. I was pretty skeptical. The memory of sweeping and crying and crying and sweeping was still fresh in my mind even though it had been a while. But whatever she did would be better than a sad bag of bits in my dusty cluttered craft room. I told her I trusted her and left it in her hands.

A few weeks ago she came in, with a lot of pieces for the shop, and a bag for me. I can’t imagine how she did, with so much of Him missing, but somehow she put my stern, beautiful God’s statue back together. She says there are flaws; his sword is a little shorter, and she claims there’s some visible glue in places, but I don’t see anything but Apollon in all His glory.

That’s some magic right there.

And He’s back on my shrine where He belongs

 

 

 

 

 

Posted February 8, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

The Lenaia 2020   2 comments

I didn’t plan to start an annual creative non-fiction post about the Lenaia, but since I did it the last two years, might as well go for the sacred three and start a tradition.

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Dusk was still a few hours away, but the old woman couldn’t say inside. The winter afternoon was mild, sundrenched and spectacular, seducing her outside to bathe her skin in sunlight, while a ghost-white waxing moon floated in a cobalt sky.

An insistent flash from the willow tree demanded her attention. It was a Baltic amber necklace that she’d forgotten gifting to the dryad. Yet another summons from Poseidon. Uneasy, she shoved it to the back of her mind, focusing on the festival at hand.

The dog and two of the cats at her heels, she requested entry into the Faery Realm of Tinuviel. Rather to her surprise, it was granted. She stood in the branch-filtered sunlight, looking at the lovely little areas she had created for the fae over the years with small things — stones, crystals, jewelry, toys, tiny furniture. It hadn’t been tidied in months, not since her exile, and she wondered if she’d be permitted to straighten them. It came to her that it all needed to be removed. Shocked, she asked aloud if she’d understood correctly. There was no reply but an insistent silence. She gathered her wits and asked if she might confirm the directive through divination, and received an affirmative answer. But as she left, she saw a few little things, flowers and jewelry made from plastic, and took them with her. Later, in the house, she wrapped them respectfully in paper and put them in the trash with a prayer that they break down quickly and return to their component elements in the earth.

As she made her way back to the house a flash of white overhead caught her eye. She looked up to see a bald eagle hovering over her, its mate close by. Its eyes bored into hers. The pair swam against the sky in lazy spirals before disappearing over the roof.

The old woman and Delilah, the dog, went out at sunset and poured the opening libations to a sky of flame.

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After dinner, the old woman set up a simple altar before the fire—a statue of Dionysos, one of a fairy with a stag, candles, stones, incense, grapes and a bottle of homemade wine gifted from a friend. She cleansed the room with smoke, made the opening prayers and libations to Hestia and Dionysos, and read the Homeric Hymn to Dionysos. Taking the grapes, wine and a food offering from her dinner, she and the big Siamese headed out into the bright moonlight, the dog and young tabby watching wistfully from the doorway. Old Ivy was invited but chose to remain nestled in blankets before the fire.

At the doorway to Tinuviel she requested entrance and was again admitted. The starlight sang loudly in the little copse as she left an offering of grapes and poured a libation. On the way out, she paused at Dionysos’s dryad and left wine and grapes for them as well.

Marley, the Siamese, led the way down the driveway, across the boundary and into the lane. As on previous ritual pompes, the old woman clutched her offering dish and wine in nervous hands. A new house had been built since last winter, only thirty feet from the pond. Its bright dusk-to-dawn lights stabbed her as she walked cautiously down the lane, praying no cars would encounter them on their trek, bearing their strange burdens.

No cars came, but the pond was floodlit with artificial light. The moon glimmered on the water, but the old woman wasn’t able to perceive the presence of the limnades or any other spirits. Unperturbed, Marley delicately picked her way across dead grass and undergrowth to the mud at the water’s edge. They stood there together, the old woman hoping not to be seen and challenged by the new neighbors. She spoke to the limnades, promising to do what she could to make the new situation tenable for them, but received no reply. Sighing, she left the food offering on the bank and poured the libation into the quiet water.

Calling the cat to her, the old woman pulled her hoodie close around her face and made her way back up the lane to the farm driveway, grateful that no one else was about. She wondered if the pond would retain its numinous quality or if the nearness of people with their clatter and light would drive the spirits deeper into the surrounding woods. Sadness touched her, and the knowledge that for mortal things, human and land wight, everything ends eventually.

The cat the woman walked together through the mild moonlit winter night to the house. The stars danced around the moon in a scatter of brilliance, but no gods spoke to her that night.

 

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Snow was falling hard the next afternoon as the old woman came home from work. It transformed the farm into Wonderland. She changed her clothes hastily, built a fire, and set up the second day’s altar on a marble table, with a bottle of Primal Roots red wine and a pomegranate in addition to the statue of Dio, candles and incense. She collected the dog and cats and they all ran eagerly outside into the falling snow, laughing and leaping in the sparkling stuff.

As dusk fell, the snow stopped and the clouds blew away. A glowing Persephone moon emerged high in the east, turning the fresh snow into a magic carpet. The old woman opened the wine and read Dver’s ‘Lenaia’ to open the second night’s ritual. After prayers and libations, she took the pomegranate, grapes, a satsuma mandarin and wine, and headed out through the crunching snow to the Persephone shrine, the dog and cats at her heels.

She paused under Oberyn’s snow-heavy branches, the moon caught behind them. Veils of mist moved across the face of the moon, the limnades high and thin, but in the west clouds were massing, blotting out the stars. The trees stood perfectly still, branches pearl white, trunks deepest black, stark against the opaque silvered violet of the sky.

Oberyn spoke to the old woman. She listened carefully and thanked him, promising to try to understand better.

The Goddess was there at her shrine, the Winter Child, a face not previously encountered by the woman. She knelt in the wet snow and placed her offerings on the ground before the shrine, holding herself in silence and receptivity. The Kore-Queen received her with warmth, but there was a sense of distance. No communications were given. The cats and dog moved around the periphery but did not approach the shrine.

With a sigh, the old woman got to her feet and brushed the snow from her wet, aching knees. Tipping the libation flagon, she left the wine and food unshared before the shrine and returned to the house.

After warming herself before the fire, the woman refilled the flagon and took a bowl of stew with bread and butter out into the hushed night, this time just with Marley. Together they made their way directly to the Dio grapevine and his consort tree, not seeking passage through Tinuviel. As they stood before the enwrapped pair, a car started up next door and pulled out into the lane, its headlights piercing the winter-thin trees. Instinctively, the old woman shrank into the shadows, clutching her offering vessels to her chest. As the headlights swung toward her, she crouched low, then berated herself as the car passed for hiding in her own yard.

Dionysos and his consort, like Persephone, accepted the offerings with warmth but there was no ekstasis, no dissolving into the Presence. By now, the old woman knew better than to expect it, although she couldn’t help hoping. With thanks and love, she left the food, poured a libation into the Dryad’s roots and finished off what was left in the flagon.

On the way back to the house, she paused underneath Oberyn, entranced by the delicate tracery of his shadows in the snow, backlit by the Persephone moon. In that moment Mnemosyne overwhelmed her, transporting her back almost five decades into the past, into the grottoes at the Arboretum in Bermuda, a favorite childhood haunt. She was immersed in the memory, the cool, dark shadows of palm trees wavering in the hot sunlight, the humid air sticky on her skin, the little green pools full of mystery and tadpoles, the smell of oleander heavy in the air. The old woman basked in the visceral memory, spellbound. When the grip of the experience released her, she and the cat returned to the house, grateful and exhausted.

 

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The third night of the Lenaia, one short of the full moon, was crystal clear, cold and windy. After a wonderful day of writing with her muse-friend, the old woman re-set the altar with wine, grapes and forest incense for the dryads. On this night she read Dver’s ‘Limnades’ to open the ritual.

There was no trace of the mist-maidens when the old woman set off with the dog and all three cats into the hard, bright moonlight. Only a few stars were scattered through the matte purple sky.

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Tyr was encircled by an enchanted wreath of spring, an expanse completely free of the hard, crunchy snow that covered the rest of the orchard. She stepped into it, the earth so soaked with cold water that it squelched like a sponge. She spoke softly to  him, words of love and admiration, and he smiled his enigmatic smile at her.

She carried her offerings in a labyrinthine path through the trees, pausing by Gomez to wonder at the enchanted beauty of the night. As she stood there, she realized that it was truly dark except for the moonlight. Not only had the people next door turned off their various outdoor floodlights, but the new neighbors across the lane had as well— the brilliant lights above their garage and all the house lights. Only the red eye of the doorbell could be seen through the trees. The old woman was overcome with gratitude, sending it to the neighbors on the night air, reveling in the rare experience of standing in pure moonlight.

She made her way to Muninn, made her offerings, and fell through a blue hole in his upper branches. The portal didn’t lead anywhere in particular this time. She just drifted in the fathomless blue expanse.

When she returned, she took the offering vessels back to the patio and picked up the staff that was to be her thyrsos for the ritual. Chanting the traditional ‘Io Io Iakkhos!’ she made her way around the house, yard and orchard, tapping all the trees except the lilacs, who, as usual, were already waking too early, and Tyr, who was clearly stirring. The cats and dog ignored her as she went about her Work, and she moved briskly in the bright night. No one else spoke to her.

Declaring the ritual closed, the old woman called the animals to her, and they all went inside to the fire.

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Posted January 12, 2020 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Cold November Rain   2 comments

November is a tough month for me, in some ways even harder than my other Struggle Month, February. I don’t think I’m alone in this. November is when the dark descends so early that we barely have time to acknowledge that it’s afternoon. The first frosts and freezes smack into us. I have to wear gloves to manage the pitchfork for morning barn chores. The potted plants I’ve forgotten to bring in or pitch are brown and drooping on the deck. I have to plan filling the horses’ water trough around hard freezes. The mares are grouchy because the good grass is all gone. Delilah shirks her barn dog duties more and more, and is touchy about stepping onto the cold grass to pee.

There are things I like about winter, but it’s hard to remember them in November. It’s not calendar winter yet, but I’m in hoodies and scarves and have my hand warmers next to my barn clothes. I move more slowly and want to sleep more. I want fires burning whenever I’m home, even though I know that means we’re going to have to budget for more wood and I’m going to have to find the time and energy to stack it. Thanksgiving is pleasant, but not enough to pull me up from the doldrums. Yule and Christmas are still a ways away, as is the lovely month of January when I really do just snuggle in and bliss on the solitude and snowflakes for a while.

I’m still adjusting, I guess. Trying to wrap my head around how swiftly the years are flickering by, especially the bright summery parts of them. It feels as if I just barely put my heavy winter barn clothes away.

I rushed homeward the other day, having worked, then spent a little time at the library writing, my head full of must-dos and have-tos and lists. As I drove up the hill toward Sharpsburg, I suddenly pitched all the must-dos out the window and pulled abruptly into the parking area off Rt.34 by the battlefield.

I had noticed idly on the way to work that morning that the corn still stood, tall and dry and golden-brown, in the fields leading to Burnside Bridge. I had been dying to walk a corn maze all through the Halloween season but (as is bafflingly always the case) was too busy to actually do it. I love being surrounded by tall grasses, so Demetrian, as well as the spiritual and psychological gifts that come from mazes and labyrinths.

I decided that just getting lost in a big corn field was exactly what I need to do on that exact day.

I walked the Three Farms trail for about half a mile, looking into the dry rustling rows and getting excited about picking my spot to plunge in. In a vale between two hills with rows of trees to use as sight markers, I took a deep breath, said a simple prayer, and stepped into the tall cornstalks.

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It’s probably harder to do when the stalks are green and growing, full of sap and Mother energy. Now they’re brittle, rattling against each other with a sound that makes you think of insects, and mad-eyed crones, and collecting firewood. I was respectful of their aged limbs, trying not to trip or carelessly snap them.

Thin patches in the rows encouraged me to move to my left, eastward, up the hill. I got lost in the simple act of finding my way forward, no destination in mind, no task at hand, not even looking around to keep the treetops in sight. I fell into a kind of rhythm, like Fremen walking to avoid calling a sandworm. Step step. Pause. Gently move a heavy stalk. Step across. Move up the row. Halt. Listen. Duck under a leaning frond. Examine an ear of corn, its inner kernels exposed and hard in the chilly air, deep gold and red and brown.
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I topped the hill, but couldn’t see anything around me. Just the corn stalks, rising high over my head. The sky was a cool, uniform grey above me, a brighter circle where the sun tried to burn through. I stood motionless, listening. The birds fell silent. I could just hear my breath, and the snap of cornstalks breaking a little ways away, coming toward me. After a few moments that too stopped, and I stood in silence, in the cornfield, under the monochrome sky.

My heart was pounding hard when I moved on. I came to a small clearing, the cornstalks skimpy and stunted, a big hole disappearing into the earth in the shelter of some rocks. It looked like a groundhog hole, but next to it were a couple of piles of scat, oddly beautiful, deep purple and full of berries. They were the size of my doubled fists, surely too big for groundhogs? I snapped a photo, thanked the beings and spirits for tolerating my presence, and moved on. I could feel eyes on me from all around as I moved back into the rows.E6E3FD03-21E2-431C-A492-99DC060AD280

I saw a treeline ahead and made for it. The corn rows grew thicker, forcing me to move over, back, and over again in order to go forward. Almost as if the corn field was reluctant to let me out.

It felt so odd stepping onto thin grass on the verge, the trees looming over me, next to an ancient fieldstone wall. It was like waking from a dream. This was a path used only by the farmers, far off from the National Park trails. I could see the flat fields below, to the east, near the Antietam Creek. I turned west and made my way back up the hill, the cornfield on my right. I figured I’d make my way back for a bit, then summon up my courage and plunge back into the corn.

But at the hill’s crest I saw the line of trees I’d used as my marker to make my way in. Majestic, nearly naked, they towered against the watchful sky. I couldn’t resist them. I walked under their bare branches, picking my way through broken rock and gnarled roots and animal lairs, their bony fingers clicking at me in a sharp yet hushed language, similar yet not the same as the murmur of the corn.

The treeline ran out before I was back on the Park trail, leaving a thick band of corn to navigate. But as I came down past the last trees, back in the little vale between the hills, I suddenly found myself in Other.

A dozen or more boltholes were scattered between the last tree roots and corn rows, nestled into rock and earth and root, dug into the trunks of the older trees. As it flashed through my mind how dangerous it would be to ride a horse across this ground, I heard drumming. I neared one of the holes. The drumming was coming from within. I moved toward another, and heard it there too, like an echo from a memory. But I could feel the vibration under my sneakers.

A flash of brilliant gold pulled my eye to the field to the east, the one I’d walked into at the beginning of this adventure. It looked like sunset reflecting off a windshield or a window, but it was right in the middle of a field of corn, nothing else around. I watched for a few moments, but didn’t see it again.

The drumming faded away, but the sense of watchfulness increased. I stood motionless for a few minutes, wondering what the correct thing to do could be. I was so tempted to call out, to peer into a hole, to sing a greeting, to ask for something, I didn’t even know what. A boon, or just a glimpse of whatever dwelt there in the bounds of this enchanted space. But while I can be a foolish old witch at times, I try not to be actually stupid. I know my lore. I whispered an apology for not having an offering, and may have mentioned my status as a Demetrian priestess, just in case anyone might care.

Still feeling danger all around, I walked back into the corn. In about five minutes I emerged from the field onto the path, and the ordinary world settled around me again.

Or almost. As I stared back across the stiff ranks of brown-gold corn, to the rising crowns of trees past them, I was shaken by the rare grip of ekstasis, the enthousiasmos of the Gods, in this case, of Her. Tears sliding down my face, I reached into my pocket and found a beautiful polished stone of opalite that I’d picked up at the Ren Faire a month before and forgotten. Whispering fervent thanks, I threw it as far as I could into the corn.

When I turned back to the trail, a woman was coming down the hill toward me. Her face was a study in politeness and mild worry. Clearly she’d seen me gesturing, praying, throwing the offering, the trace of tears still on my face. I smiled brightly at her and said hello, she replied in kind, and we went on our paths.

Even in dull November there are gifts.

Posted November 25, 2019 by suzmuse in Uncategorized