Poetry

The Birth of Vainamoinen

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From the Kalevala, here is the story of the creation of the world, Ilmatar Daughter of Nature, and the birth of her son, Vainamoinen.

Lonely come the nights upon us,
Lonely dawn the brightening days;
Lonely born was Vainamoinen,
All alone, the poet immortal,
From the beautiful who bore him,
From his mother, Ilmatar –

She, the virgin of the air,
Beautiful maiden. Nature’s child,
Long maintained in holiness
Her eternal maidenhood
In the far-horizoned heavens,
Level meadows of the air.

But in time she wearied of it,
Was estranged from this odd living,
Always being by herself,
Ever living as a virgin
In those far-horizoned heavens,
In those vast and empty spaces.

So at length she then descended
To the seawaves down below,
To the open clear sea surface
Out upon the open ocean.
Suddenly a storm wind blew,
Out of the east an angry blast
Blew the water to a foam
Heaving up the rollers high.

By the wind the maid was rocked,
On a wave the maid was driven
Round about the blue sea surface
By the whirling whitecaps lifted
Where her womb the wind awakened
And the sea-foam impregnated.

Thus a full womb now she carried,
Long she bore her burdened belly,
Seven hundred years she bore it
For nine lifetimes of a man,
Yet the borning was unborn,
Still the fetus undelivered.

As the mother of the water
Aimlessly the virgin drifted:
She swam eastward, she swam westward,
She swam south and northwestward,
Swimming round the whole horizon
In the anguish of her birth pangs,
In her belly’s bursting pains.
Yet the borning was unborn,
Still the fetus undelivered.

Then she fell to weeping softly,
Said a word and spoke out thus:
“Woe is me, the water wanderer,
Luckless girl, misfortune’s child!
Now already I’m in trouble,
Shelterless beneath the sky,
Ever rocking on the seawaves
To be cradled by the wind,
To be driven by the billows
On these far-extending waters,
Endlessly repeated billows.

“Better had it been for me
To have stayed the airy virgin
Than to be as I am now
Drifting as the water-mother.
Its too cold for me to stay here,
Painful to be drifting here,
Wallowing in this watery waste.

“0 thou Ukko, lord of all,
Hear me, thou the all-sustainer:
Come, 0 come where thou art needed;
Come, 0 come where thou art called!
Loose the maiden from her misery
And the woman from her womb-ache;
Come thou quickly, soon arriving
Where thy help is sooner needed.”

Then a bit of time passed over
Like a tiny rash of rain,
When a scaup, the honest bird,
Came on hovering here and there
Searching for a nesting place,
For a spot to build her home on.

She flew eastward, she flew westward,
Flew to northwest and to southward
But she cannot find a spot
Even in the worst of places
Where to build her needful nest,
Where to take up her abode.

Hovering, fluttering back and forth
Thus she thought and pondered it:
“Must I make my home on wind,
Build my hut upon the billows
Where the wind can blow it over
Or a wave can wash away?”

So the mother of the water,
Water mother, airy maiden,
Raised her knee above the surface
And her shoulder from the wave
As a refuge for the scaup
And a welcome nesting place.

Then that scaup, the lovely bird,
Fluttering round and hovering over
Spied the water-mother’s knee
Lifted from the sea’s blue surface;
Took it for a grassy tussock
Or a tuft of new-grown turf.

Flies about, flitting here and there,
Settles on the lifted kneecap.
It is there she builds her nest,
There she laid her golden eggs –
Six were the golden eggs she laid,
But the seventh was of iron.

She began to hatch the eggs there,
Heating up the lifted kneecap;
Brooded one day, brooded two days,
Even on the third day brooding.
Then the mother of the water,
Little mother, airy maiden,
Felt the rising heat upon her,
Felt as if her skin were scorching,
Thought her kneecap was on fire,
That her very veins were melting.

All at once she jerked her knee,
Agitating every member,
And the eggs rolled in the water
To the tumbling of the tides;
Into bits the eggs were broken,
Shattered into crumbs and pieces.

But the eggs and pieces were not
Mixed up with the mud and water
For at once the crumbs grew comely
And the pieces beautiful.
One egg’s lower half transformed
And became the earth below,
And its upper half transmuted
And became the sky above;
From the yolk the sun was made,
Light of day to shine upon us;
From the white the moon was formed,
Light of night to gleam above us;
All the colored brighter bits
Rose to be the stars of heaven
And the darker crumbs changed into
Clouds and cloudlets in the sky.

Quickly now the time goes forward
As the hurrying years pass by
While the newborn sun is shining
And the newborn moon is gleaming.
Still the mother goes on swimming,
Water mother, airy maiden,
Swimming on those peaceful waters
Over misty seawaves wandering.
Before her flowed the liquid deep,
Behind her shone the empty heaven.

In the ninth year, tenth of summers,
Raised her head out of the sea,
Lifts her crown above the water;
Set to work on her creations,
Hastens on her handiwork,
Out upon the clear sea surface,
Out upon the open ocean.

Where she gave her hand a turn
There she put the capes in order;
Where her foot struck bottom, there
Grottoes for the fish were formed;
Where the bubbles reached the surface
There the deeps were made still deeper.

Where her side had scraped the land
There the level shores appeared;
Where she turned her foot to landward
There the salmon grounds were formed,
And wherever her head touched land
There the broad bays opened out.

Swimming farther out from shore
She halted on the smooth sea surface
Where she made the little islands.
Then she raised the hidden reefs
Where the grounded ships would founder,
Many a seaman lose his life.

Now the islands were in order
And the small isles of the sea;
Pillars for the sky were planted,
Lands and continents created;
On the rocks the writs were written”
And the signs drawn on the cliffs.
Yet Vainamoinen is unborn,
Poet eternal not emerged.

Old reliable Vainamoinen
Traveled in his mother’s womb,
Traveled there for thirty summers
And as many winters too
On the ocean now so peaceful
In that misty world of water.

He is pondering, he is thinking,
How to live or how survive
In this dismal hiding place,
In this narrowest of dwellings
Where he never saw the moon,
Never got a glimpse of sunlight.

So he speaks out in these words,
Says it in these sentences:
“Free me. Moon, and Sun, release me!
Thou, Great Bear, do ever guide me,
Lead a man here through strange doors,
Through these unfamiliar gates.
Release me from this narrow nest,
From this shut-in dwelling place!
Guide the traveler to the land,
Child of mankind to the open
To behold the moon in heaven
And to wonder at the daylight,
Get to know the Great Bear’s grandeur
Or just to stare up at the stars!”

Since the moon did not arrive
Nor the sun come to release him,
Alienated from his birth time,
Impatient of this dull existence,
He pushed against his prison lock
Pressing with his nameless finger,
Slid the bony bolt aside,
With his left toe opened it;
Scrabbling with his nails he came
Crawling through the exit door.

Headlong in the sea he tumbled
With a hand-turn in the waves.
There the man was left alone
In the rough care of the billows.

There he floated for five years,
Six, seven, even eight years,
Stopped at last upon the surface
There beside a nameless headland,
On a treeless continent.

Struggling up with knee and elbow
He stood up to see the world:
To behold the moon in heaven
And to wonder at the daylight,
Get to know the Great Bear’s grandeur
Or just to stare up at the stars.

That was the birth of Vainamoinen.
Such the daring poets descent
From the beautiful who bore him,
From his mother, Ilmatar.

Wainamoinen’s Harp Songs

The Kalevala recounts a battle of wits between three wizard brothers and the witch goddess, Louhi. It is a treasure trove of ancient shamanistic practices and spells. Here’s a reading:

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Wainamoinen’s Harp Songs

Then the singer of Wainola
Took the harp of his creation,
Quick adjusting, sweetly tuning,
Deftly plied his skillful fingers
To the strings that he had fashioned.
Now was gladness rolled on gladness,
And the harmony of pleasure
Echoed from the hills and mountains:
Added singing to his playing,
Out of joy did joy come welling,
Now resounded marvelous music,
All of Northland stopped and listened.
Every creature in the forest,
All the beasts that haunt the woodlands,
On their nimble feet came bounding,
Came to listen to his playing,
Came to hear his songs of joyance.
Leaped the squirrels from the branches,
Merrily from birch to aspen;
Climbed the ermines on the fences,
O’er the plains the elk-deer bounded,
And the lynxes purred with pleasure;
Wolves awoke in far-off swamp-lands,
Bounded o’er the marsh and heather,
And the bear his den deserted,
Left his lair within the pine-wood,
Settled by a fence to listen,
Leaned against the listening gate-posts,
But the gate-posts yield beneath him;
Now he climbs the fir-tree branches
That he may enjoy and wonder,
Climbs and listens to the music
Of the harp of Wainamoinen.

~RUNE XLI.

The epic poem, Kalevala, is celebrated by the Finns this day (February 28) with parades and readings from the poem. The Kalevala is a 19th century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Finnish and Karelian oral folklore and mythology. The above translation is by John Martin Crawford,

The Magnificent Bull

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My bull is white like the silver fish in the river,
White like the shimmering crane bird on the river bank,
White like fresh milk!
His roar is like the thunder to the Turkish cannon on the steep shore.

My bull is dark like the raincloud in the storm.
He is like summer and winter.
Half of him is dark like the storm cloud
Half of him is light like sunshine.
His back shines like the morning star.
His brow is red like the beak of the hornbill.
His forehead is like a flag, calling the people from a distance.

He resembles the rainbow.
I will water him at the river,
With my spear I shall drive my enemies.
Let them water their herds at the well;
The river belongs to me and my bull.
Drink, my bull, from the river;
I am here to guard you with my spear.

– Traditional Dinka Tribe, Africa

Invocation to the Sun and Moon

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Lord Sun, life of day!
In your fire-boat gliding through golden rays!
Extend yourself, with hands of light,
To us who worship in your sight,
And in your ancient names rejoice,
And hear the mystery of your voice.

Lady Moon, cloud bound,
Of liquid light and pale hounds,
Course among us — Your light diffuse!
Shed your blessings on us who choose
The evening worship by silver flame,
Singing your thousand living names.

Invocation by Olwen Fferyllt

Look!

moon

Look –
The moon thumbs through night’s book.
Finds a lake where nothing is printed.
Draws a straight line.
That’s all it can.
That’s enough.
Thick line. Straight toward you.
– Look.

Rolf Jacobsen

The Courtship of Inanna and Damuzi

The courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi is one of the oldest love poems from the ancient world. It is a story of love between the gods (although some argue that Dumuzi was a real person, who rose to power, and so attained mythical divine status). When the gods consummate their love the result is fecundity on earth, particularly for their worshipers.

This Sumerian text is often compared to the Song of Songs. The Egyptian love poetry makes a better parallel, but there are some connections. However, a word of warning, this is much more explicitly sexual than the Song of Songs, and, of course, it is about divine lovers.

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Here it is:

The brother spoke to this younger sister
The Sun God, Utu, spoke to Inanna, saying:

‘Young Lady, the flax in its fullness is lovely,
Inanna, the grain is glistening in the furrow.
I will hoe it for you, I will bring it to you
A piece of linen, big or small, is always needed.
Inanna, I will bring it to you.’

‘Brother, after you’ve brought me the flax, who will comb it for me?
Sister, I will bring it to you combed.’
‘Utu, after you’ve brought it to me combed, who will spin it for me?
‘Sister, I will bring it to you spun.’
‘Brother, after you’ve brought the flax to me spun, who will braid it for me?
‘Sister, I will bring it to you braided.’
‘Utu, after you’ve brought it to me braided, who will warp it for me?’
‘Inanna, I will bring it to you warped.’
‘Brother, after you’ve brought the flax to me warped, who will weave it for me?’
‘Sister, I will bring it to you woven.’
‘Utu, after you’ve brought it to me woven, who will bleach it for me?’
‘Inanna, I will bring it to you bleached.’

‘Brother, after you’ve brought my bridal sheet to me,
Who will go to bed with me?
Utu, who will go to bed with me?’

‘Sister, your bridegroom will go to be with you
He who was born from a fertile womb,
He who was conceived on the sacred marriage throne
Dumuzi, the shepherd! He will go to bed with you.’

Inanna bathed and anointed herself with scented oil.
She covered her body with the royal robe
She arranged her precious lapis beads around her neck
She took the royal seal in her hand
Dumuzi waited expectantly
Inanna opened the door for him
Inside the house she shone before him
Like the light of the moon
Dumuzi looked at her joyously
He pressed his neck close against hers
He kissed her Continue reading

In Our Bones

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We locked up our wisdom into our bones
And swallowed the keys
They sank in our rivers of blood
And we forgot the maps
Because we had to forget the mysteries
To keep them safe.
We wove our hair into brooms
And swept over our paths
And then burned the earth with our rage
We didn’t teach our children
It was the only way to protect them,
we thought
But in them we planted seeds, seeds and keys
And told them stories and riddles and songs
With no roots, just tangled threads
That would take years to unwind
Just enough time
For the rains to fall again
And put out the fires
For the dams to break
For the rivers to flood
For the paths to be walked again
For the soil to breathe
And as the old bones crumble
Deep beneath the rubble
We find we’ve always had the keys
Our stories and our maps
Our paths are revealed to some
And the seeds grow again
The threads are unspun
And woven again

Attributions:

Keeping Quiet

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Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

~ By Pablo Neruda
~ from Extravagaria

‘Twas the night before Yule

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‘Twas the night before Yule, and all through the Coven,
The cookies were baked and removed from the oven.
The bayberry candles were lit on the table,
The altar was wrapped in a new cloth of sable.

The children were nestled, all snug in their beds,
While visions of Yuletime danced in their heads.
Their stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that some presents soon would be there!

With Rocker in his new robe, and I in mine,
We were asking our Goddess her blessing divine.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from our Circle to see what was the matter.

Away to the window, tripping over my sash,
My eyes were a-glamoured with a bright silver flash.
The moon on the breasts of the Goddess and God
Drew my eyes to behold the blessed Circle they trod.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But the manifestations of all those we hold Dear.
The physical forms of those whom we pray to,
Even Saint Nick, and his miniature sleigh, too!

Jehovah, Mohammet, Shiva, Hera and Thor.
Zeus, Freya, Brahma, and many, many more.
All the Spiritual Entities who’d ever been mentioned.
Even some, like dear Loki, who sowed seeds of dissension.

They greeted each other with smile, warm and sweet.
Then, forming a Circle, they all took a seat.
With multiple Voices all joined as One,
The Corners were Called. And, when that was done.

The Chalice was passed from Hand to Hand.
Then, a blanket of silence enfolded the land.
A crystal clear Voice began to hold sway.
Which Deity spoke? I could not say.

But, clearly, I heard all the love in that Voice.
It caused my tired heart to take flight and rejoice.
“Our Children, it seems, have missed the whole point.
“We now join together, their hearts to anoint.

“Pour all of Our love O’er their hearts of stone.
“Let them see that together they’re never alone!
“Show them it matters not which of Us that they choose.
“Their sad hate and mistrust cause each of Us to lose!”

As I stood there transfixed, I could suddenly see
If we all stand as one, what a world this could be!
Put ALL of our differences well behind us.
Let the love of the Gods enfold and remind us.

We ARE all the same,though varied our skins.
We all dream the same dreams, we all sin the same sins.
With a look of enlightenment etched on my face,
I beheld all the Gods in Their glory and grace!

They all bowed Their heads then said”So mote it be!”
They all smiled at each Other bestowing winks on me.
One by One they disappeared from my sight.
Just the Goddess and God were left in the light.

As slowly They twinkled, fading by degree,
“Happy Yuletide to all!!
Blessed be times three!”

~Written by Mary, a.k.a. Wandering Poet, a.k.a.littlebit~

Permission to reprint granted to all who keep keep this credit line by the author

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