My posts on this blog tend to be intermittent, admittedly due to procrastination and trying to earn a crust in the madness that is the working life. You could say my alter ego as a writer was a sanctuary, an activity that replenished my energies and spirit. Not much replenishing has occurred over the past few weeks though, just exhaustion of mind and body. Much time had been spent contemplating my navel and the only thing I’d found was fluff. Not a realisation a self-confessed, angst ridden writer likes to admit to, had my Muses abandoned me?
What’s been happening in the interior landscape then? Forgive me for baring a part of my soul, or Soul. For me the creative process involves a deep and intimate relationship with that mysterious country – the subconscious mind. It’s a place where I communicate with my Muses and seek counsel of the Old Gods of the Collective Unconscious. Bless you Dr Jung for revealing so much of the mystery that is the inner and outer Universes! No harm in a little dramatic flourish my lovelies. It seems I’ve reached a stage in life whereby another pruning was needed to allow the living tissue to flourish. Talking in riddles again. You get my meaning?…The dead wood isn’t going to waste though, it will provide fuel for the pot bellied stove that warms my Soul. Fire is a great transformative agent, in the alchemical process it heats, quickens and illuminates. Anyway, I digress.
Apart from a little tree surgery I’ve returned to a story which was gestated and birthed many years ago, Journey to Delphi, and subsequently reborn a few weeks ago. Twice born, the aim of the Seeker and Initiate of the Mysteries! At the time of its creation I’d been meditating on a few symbols apparent in the Delphic Oracle and the great Norse poems, Voluspá: The Sybil’s Prophecy and Hávamál: The Words of Odin. My mind was buzzing with images glimpsed through meditations and dreams. Prophecies and revelations uttered by oracles and seers deserve our attention, though they may couch them in language that is unclear and obscure. Joseph Campbell commented wisely in his book The Power of Myth:
“Anyone writing a creative work knows that you open, you yield yourself, and the book talks to you and builds itself. To a certain extent, you become the carrier of something that is given to you from what have been called the Muses—or, in biblical language, ‘God.’ This is no fancy, it is a fact. Since the inspiration comes from the unconscious, and since the unconscious minds of the people of any single small society have much in common, what the shaman or seer brings forth is something that is waiting to be brought forth in everyone. So when one hears the seer’s story, one responds, ‘Aha! This is my story. This is something that I had always wanted to say but wasn’t able to say.’ There has to be a dialogue, an interaction between the seer and the community.”
Indeed, there is much truth evident in his remarks. My story seemed to write itself without any input from me. I know it sounds fanciful but this isn’t an experience that is unique to me. At the time I was seeking answers to many questions, so who better to consult than the Pythoness at Delphi and great Odin, although neither was to give me straight answers. Bacchus also made an appearance, which was unsurprising. What emerged during the creative process was a journey not undertaken by the conscious mind. This is what happens when you engage with archetypes, the initiatory process can be fraught with challenges and sacrifices have to be made. Odin knew what had to be given up too well in order to obtain the runes. I hope the story is clearer now!
My quest begins and ends in Delphi. I come from the farthest reaches of the empire, battle weary and bloodied, asking questions that no one can answer. “Seek the wisdom of the Oracle and enlightenment may be found within the heart of your darkness” I was told. So I went. The roads were lonely and dark, the natives at times hostile, at others friendly. The Self has withstood many attacks to undermine, poison or maim it. I take pride in saying that it survives still, strong with the energy of my clan and ancestral spirits.
In my humanness I begged the Universe for answers and petitioned the powers to be with many requests. In response they sent their emissaries with a message, one which I’m still trying to unravel. Perhaps this journey was a journey undertaken by my soul in its quest for truth and meaning – only I know the answer and I’m not telling. This experience brings to mind the old maxim “beware of what you ask for as you may get it” and I certainly did!
I reach the gates of the sacred precinct and my heart throbs with joy. They direct me into the holy sanctuary and into Her presence. She looks deep within my eyes seeing much and saying nothing. “How do I make the journey into the wilderness beyond the known world?” I ask her and she replies, “ that is for you to find out warrior of the Bear clan, but you will have guides”. A hand points to the shadows and two figures are momentarily illuminated – Odin and Dionysos. A cup of dark wine is offered. “Do you dare drink from it?” I am asked. He looks at me with clear, unwavering eyes as if to say “you will drink from it, if not now, later. Why waste time?”.
The first mouthful flows swiftly down my throat. It burns a path through the body, one which I am forced to follow. The Seer stands over the scrying bowl with a perplexed look on her face. “What do I do?” she pleads to the High Ones. They point at me. “You have been chosen to go on a heroic quest” she intones, “a journey into the great forest to bring back the book of Memory and Forgetfulness. Madness or death may be companions on this perilous quest”. Two choices present themselves – do I either fling myself at the feet of the God and plead for mercy or run as fast as possible in the opposite direction?. “You will take a third way” a voice whispers, “go on the journey”.
I fear the loss of my sanity as darkness closes upon me. The scent of dry earth, herbs and spring flowers assaults my senses through this mist shrouded night. I want to linger but cannot, the feet feel compelled to run. They are hard and dirt encrusted, once they were beautiful and an inspiration to poets. My fever filled blood torments day and night – when will it end I ask myself? I curse the day his face was glimpsed. There seems little hope of salvation now…
I speak in my own voice and not that of Bacchus. The road travelled is long and dusty, littered with shards of lost civilisations. My memory is at once as vast as the depths of my forgetfulness, only the imprints of these people live on in the World Mind. It is these memories I seek. What country can they be found in? “What do you want stranger?” a voice asks from behind me. I turn to face a blindfolded figure. He holds out a hand and I clasp it. My muscles feel as if they are on fire as they strain against waves of shooting pain. I can feel the vibration of my screams as they echo throughout the skies. “What have you done to me?” I shout. The answer is unexpected – “this is the moment of the birth of your consciousness and descent into matter. It is as you asked and no more”. Behind closed lids I can see intense flashes of light and sound as consciousness comes and goes whilst I hang from the World Tree. I hear his voice in my head:
“I know that I hung
nine whole nights long,
storm-tossed on a tree,
my body riven,
to Odin given,
self-speared to myself:
but no-one knows
where that tree grows:
where its deep roots dig.
I bent down my head,
but they gave me no bread,
nor one sip to swallow:
I stretched down and grasped
the runes, learnt them, collapsed,
pain-stricken and screaming.
Nine mighty lays,
I learnt in those days, from Bolthor’s son, sire of Bestla
I was given to sup
the mead, sacred, scooped up
from the pot that inspires.
Then I started to flourish,
to nurture and nourish
my wisdom and wit:
as I searched my word store,
each word sent to me to more,
every one to new work…”
“Is this the way it was?” I ask him. He looks at me and nods. “You shall forget, as humans always do, but your body shall remember”. A question hovers on my lips, alas not to be answered. He is gone and only the air stands where he was. My mind feels cloudy and my body aches with tiredness as it sinks to the ground. I want to sleep and sleep I do. Strong tendrils break through the moist soil and clamber over my prone figure until it is covered in dense greenery. Thick vines curl round the Great Tree until they break through the clouds and climb ever higher. I join with them in their quest for the life giving light.
My spirit soars in the form of an eagle, it sees and hears all. What is its destination? The wind whispers the riddle of the god who walks in light, do I understand what is being asked of me?
Deep in the heart of the primordial ocean a being stirs, “I have been here before time began and will be here long after it ends. I know neither beginning nor end – I just AM”. My mind reaches out to this consciousness and it responds. I have penetrated the mystery beyond the Veil and cannot possibly be myself, as I was before the journey. Who am I now? I ask these questions but will you reply?
The vision fades to reveal two faces looking at their reflection – the Seer and the pilgrim face each other. IT IS DONE.
Photographs – author’s own.