Poetry

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Ask Now Of Death

Then Almitra spoke, saying,

“We would ask now of Death.”

And he said:

“You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day
cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death,
open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one,
even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires
lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow
your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams,
for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd
when he stands before the king
whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling,
that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind
and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing,
but to free the breath from its restless tides,
that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top,
then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs,
then shall you truly dance.”

– From The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran

Farewell Song To Northland

As the years passed Wainamoinen
Recognized his waning powers,
Empty-handed, heavy-hearted,
Sang his farewell song to Northland,
To the people of Wainola;

Sang himself a boat of copper,
Beautiful his bark of magic;
At the helm sat the magician,
Sat the ancient wisdom-singer.

Westward, westward, sailed the hero
O’er the blue-back of the waters,
Singing as he left Wainola,
This his plaintive song and echo:

“Suns may rise and set in Suomi,
Rise and set for generations,
When the North will learn my teachings,
Will recall my wisdom-sayings,
Hungry for the true religion.
Then will Suomi need my coming,

Watch for me at dawn of morning,
That I may bring back the Sampo,

Bring anew the harp of joyance,
Bring again the golden moonlight,
Bring again the silver sunshine,
Peace and plenty to the Northland.”

~Kalevala / Rune 50 (John Martin Crawford translation)

The Return

Some day, if you are lucky,
you’ll return from a thunderous journey
trailing snake scales, wing fragments
and the musk of Earth and moon.

Eyes will examine you for signs
of damage, or change
and you, too, will wonder
if your skin shows traces

of fur, or leaves,
if thrushes have built a nest
of your hair, if Andromeda
burns from your eyes.

Do not be surprised by prickly questions
from those who barely inhabit
their own fleeting lives, who barely taste
their own possibility, who barely dream.

If your hands are empty, treasureless,
if your toes have not grown claws,
if your obedient voice has not
become a wild cry, a howl,

you will reassure them. We warned you,
they might declare, there is nothing else,
no point, no meaning, no mystery at all,
just this frantic waiting to die.

And yet, they tremble, mute,
afraid you’ve returned without sweet
elixir for unspeakable thirst, without
a fluent dance or holy language.

Nephthys

What magnetic pull
we are drawn to at the end
of our light, the darkness
encircles us with her strength.

There is no escape
from the unknown expanse.
She brings you to the badlands.
She carries you to the dry barren
stretch of sky
where the stars too have been extinguished.

Hawks cry their parting love.
Women wail and she heeds
their pleas with unyielding love.
As all are born,
so too must they go.

into the dark expanse.

~Jeszika Le Vye

How We Survive

If we are fortunate,
we are given a warning.

If not,
there is only the sudden horror,
the wrench of being torn apart;
of being reminded
that nothing is permanent,
not even the ones we love,
the ones our lives revolve around.

Life is a fragile affair.
We are all dancing
on the edge of a precipice,
a dizzying cliff so high
we can’t see the bottom.

One by one,
we lose those we love most
into the dark ravine.

So we must cherish them
without reservation.
Now.
Today.
This minute.
We will lose them
or they will lose us
someday.
This is certain.
There is no time for bickering.
And their loss
will leave a great pit in our hearts;
a pit we struggle to avoid
during the day
and fall into at night.

Some,
unable to accept this loss,
unable to determine
the worth of life without them,
jump into that black pit
spiritually or physically,
hoping to find them there.

And some survive
the shock,
the denial,
the horror,
the bargaining,
the barren, empty aching,
the unanswered prayers,
the sleepless nights
when their breath is crushed
under the weight of silence
and all that it means.

Somehow, some survive all that and,
like a flower opening after a storm,
they slowly begin to remember
the one they lost
in a different way…

The laughter,
the irrepressible spirit,
the generous heart,
the way their smile made them feel,
the encouragement they gave
even as their own dreams were dying.

And in time, they fill the pit
with other memories
the only memories that really matter.

We will still cry.
We will always cry.
But with loving reflection
more than hopeless longing.

And that is how we survive.
That is how the story should end.
That is how they would want it to be.

~ Mark Rickerby

Dirge Without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, — but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

~Edna St Vincent Millay

Runes of Comfort For The Bereaved

I am the Life and the Light and the Way.
The earth is my garden.
Each of the souls I plant as seeds
Germinates and flowers in its season
And in each I am fulfilled.
There is no cause for grief
When a blossom fades
But only rejoicing for the beauty it held
And praise that my will is done
And my plan served.
I am one with all creatures
And none is ever lost
But only restored to me
Having never left me at all.
For what is Eternal
Cannot be separated from its Source.
I am with you all,
And each of you is a channel for my Light.
Feel my Love
Enfold you now and evermore.

From: The Book of Runes

The Power of a Word

I have the power to bend a man,
to break his spirit and crush his plans.
I can make the world stand still,
I can make the frozen heart feel.
I can cure the sick and heal the mind,
but I can destroy and I can bind.
I can bring peace to a raging war,
or I can bring hate right to your door.
I can mend your battered pride,
I can make you die inside.
I am love and I am despair,
and all the things in the shadows there.
Yet with all the power I command,
I am tossed around like gains of sand.
Oh the good I could do if only I was heard,
such a massive thing, the power of a word.

~ Mystic Firefly

Odin’s Rune Song

Rúnatal or Óðins Rune Song, Rúnatáls-þáttr-Óðins (stanzas 139-146) is a section of the Hávamál where Odin reveals the origins of the runes. In stanzas 139 and 140, Odin describes his sacrifice of himself to himself:

138.

I wot that I hung on the wind-tossed tree
all of nights nine,
wounded by spear, bespoken to Óthin,
bespoken myself to myself,
[upon that tree of which none telleth
from what roots it doth rise]

139.

Neither horn they upheld nor handed me bread;
I looked below me–
aloud I cried–
caught up the runes, caught them up wailing,
thence to the ground fell again.

140.

From the son of Bolthorn, Bestla’s father,
I mastered mighty songs nine,
and a drink I had, of the dearest mead,
got from out of Óthrærir.

141.

Then began I to grow and gain in insight,
to wax eke in wisdom:
One verse led on to another verse,
one poem led on to the other poem.

142.

Runes wilt thou find, and rightly read,
of wondrous weight,
of mighty magic,
which that dyed the dread God,
which that made the holy hosts,
and were etched by Óthin.

143.

Óthin among Æsir, for alfs, Dain,
Dvalin for the dwarfs,
Alsvith among etins, (but for earth-borne men)
wrought I some myself.

144.

Know’st how to write, know’st how to read,
know’st how to stain, how to understand,
know’st how to ask, know’st how to offer,
know’st how to supplicate, know’st how to sacrifice?

145.

‘Tis better unasked than offered overmuch;
for ay doth a gift look for gain;
’tis better unasked than offered overmuch:
thus did Óthin write ere the earth began,
when up he rose in after time.

146.

Those spells I know which the spouses of kings
wot not, nor earthly wight:
“Help” one is hight, with which holpen thou’lt be
in sorrow and care and sickness.

147.

That other I know which all will need
who leeches list to be:
(on the bark scratch them of bole in the woods
whose boughs bend to the east).

148.

That third I know, if my need be great
to fetter a foeman fell:
I can dull the swords of deadly foes,
that nor wiles nor weapons avail.

149

that fourth I know, if foemen have
fettered me hand and foot:
I chant a charm the chains to break,
so the fetters fly off my feet,
and off my hands the halter.

150.

That fifth I know, if from foemans’s hand
I see a spear sped into throng,
never so fast it flies but its flight I can stay,
once my eye lights on it.

151.

That sixth I know, if me someone wounds
with runes on gnarled root written,
or rouses my wrath by reckless speech:
him blights shall blast, not me.

152.

That seventh I know, if o’er sleepers’ heads
I behold a hall on fire:
however bright the blaze I can beat it down–
that mighty spell I can speak.

153.

That eighth I know which to all men is
needful, and good to know:
when hatred runs high, heroes among,
their strife I can settle full soon.

154.

That ninth I know: if need there be
to guard a ship in a gale,
the wind I can calm, and the waves also,
and wholly soothe the sea.

155.

That tenth I know, if night-hags sporting
I scan aloft in the sky:
I scare them with spells so they scatter abroad,
heedless of their hides,
heedless of their haunts.

156.

That eleventh I know, if I am to lead
old friends to the fray:
under buckler I chant that briskly they fare
hale and whole to battle,
hale and whole from battle:
hale where ever they are.

157.

That twelfth I know, if on tree I see
a hanged one hoisted on high:
thus I write and the runes I stain
that down he drops
and tells me his tale.

158.

That thirteenth I know if a thane’s son I shall
wet with holy water:
never will he fall, though the fray be hot,
nor sink down, wounded by sword.

159.

That fourteenth I know, if to folk I shall
sing and say of the Gods:
Æsir and alfs know I altogether–
of unlearned few have that lore.

160.

That know I fifteenth which Thjóthrærir sang,
the dwarf, before Delling’s door:
gave to Æsir strength, to alfs victory
by his song, and insight to Othin.

161.

That sixteenth I know, if I seek me some maid,
to work my will with her:
the white-armed woman’s heart I bewitch,
and toward me I turn her thoughts.

162.

That seventeenth I know, (if the slender maid’s love
I have, and hold her to me:
this I sing to her) that she hardly will
leave me for other man’s love.

163.

In this lore wilt thou, Loddfáfnir, be
unversed forever and ay:
thy weal were it, if this wisdom thine–
’tis helpful, if heeded,
’tis needful, if known.

164.

That eighteenth I know which to none I will tell,
neither maid nor man’s wife–
’tis best warded if but one know it:
this speak I last of my spells–
but only to her in whose arms I lie,
or else to my sister also.

165.

Now are Hár’s sayings spoken in Hár’s hall,
of help to the sons of men,
of harm to the sons of etins;
hail to whoever spoke them, hail to whoever knows them!
Gain they who grasp them,
happy they who heed them!

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