Dionysos Pursues: Spirit of the Vine

Image: werner22brigitte, Pixabay

Once again we enter through the portals of the bar hidden deep within the heart of the city. A place only found by those who truly seek answers to questions of the Soul. Three hold court in its hallowed premises, the Spirit of Dance, Love and Memory. Which one shall the visitor gravitate towards? He stands silhouetted in the doorway, passion and gnosis encapsulated in breath taking beauty and disintegration. This is no ordinary seeker. Humans, non-humans and gods have passed through this place, leaving profoundly changed in some way. He enters holding the symbol of his divinity, the thyrsus surmounted by a pine cone. A panther, horse and bull soon follow. All eyes gaze knowingly at the tableaux. Something is afoot they sense. The man’s eyes search the dimly lit room, they’re intense and piercing. Many yearn to touch his sensual lips, not knowing why such an urge should overshadow reason and decorum. He brings a wildness of spirit and madness in his wake, with little change of escape for the unprepared.

The Triad watch silently, knowing well who he’s come seeking. The Spirit of Love gestures to a figure waiting in the shadows. A beautiful woman emerges into the light. Nut brown hair is held back form a fine boned face, which is flawless except for a tiny scar next to the right eye. This only serves to highlight her beauty. Her green eyes shine brightly, vulnerability clouding them briefly. They close for a moment, the man then seizes his chance and kisses her lips lightly. Such restraint the woman thinks. Many were the nights when the sleepy eyed god would rain kisses upon her, offering his Body, Heart and Soul. The fruit of the vine flowed like his blood, a sacrifice that was readily accepted by his worshippers, especially the Maenads.  Mighty Dionysos!

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Image: werner22brigitte, Pixabay

The woman curls her arms around his neck and they begin a slow dance in the centre of the room. The orchestra plays a wistful and hypnotic melody that fires the blood and reaches deep into your memories. It sings of the passion of worship and illumination, of unconscious urges rising from the depths and fragmenting in the light of day. Those present feel its primeval beat and unbridled emotions. They perch on the edge of surrender, surrender to forces beyond human comprehension, as do the two figures on the dance floor. Dionysos whirls away from the woman and performs a dance in ecstatic frenzy. He gives up himself and his very being in this ritual of unbinding and vulnerability.

“Come, maenad, tear me asunder and set me free” he begs his partner.

The woman walks round him, slowly and seductively. She stands in strength and power, confident in every way. Her grace and serenity beguile and warm the heart.

“Unbind your beauteous hair my love and let it flow like a waterfall over my arms” he beseeches to no avail.

“I loosen my hair for no one Great One, those times are gone. I no longer rend my clothes and spirit for you” she whispers in his ear. He moans in protest and then laughs.

They circle each like warriors on the battlefield. Memories swirl around them like ribbons of light, shimmering in intensity when the emotions overflow the cup. His ecstatic trance flows like a river in full rage, unstoppable and dangerous. The Triad held the power at bay if only to protect the bystanders. The driving beat of the melody urges the dancers onwards to a higher state of consciousness. The God of the Vine gazes intently at the woman facing him, her lips whisper prayers uttered in his honour in ancient times. His eyes close in humility and thanks.

The woman approaches and kisses him deeply. It tells of millennia of searching for her true self, of walking on roads unknown and fearful. Yet, she always sensed his presence wherever she went. The kiss told of her fragmentation and subsequent rebirth. It told of nights when the god approached and enfolded her in warmth and safety. It told of a love drawn from a bottomless well.

The two figures part and stand smiling at each other. She stands back and holds out her arms, two serpents emerge from behind and wind themselves round each arm. Her hair comes loose and flows down her back. The God of the Vine drinks bows his head in respect and gestures to a table in the corner. On it wait fruit of the vine and two wine glasses. The red of sacrifice has been replaced by the white of rebirth.

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Image: werner22brigitte, Pixabay

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Hell’s Librarian – Twittering Tales #52 – 3 October 2017

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Photo by GLady on Pixabay.com

This is my response to the fiendish challenge set by Kat Myrman for this week’s Twittering Tale.

It’s taken a while to track you down and I’m not in a good mood. You’re fifty years overdue and he wants it back. Hand the soul over.
(135 words)

Seraph: Warrior of Light

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Image: Mysticsartdesign, Pixabay

Amunet faces another sunrise at the remote monastery, the sixtieth at the last count. Due to its location visitors are rare. Those that appear at its gates are there for very specific reasons and she falls into that category. The young man who accompanied her two months ago was meeting his guru at the monastery. Their journey will continue into the far north, deep into the Tibetan plateau. This is the last anyone will see of them. Many of her encounters end in such ways. As for the reason for being here, it has taken months of searching to find a lead, any lead, of the woman known as Seraph. She certainly had a sense of humour taking on that name. It was a little obvious! The monks have found the scroll she was looking for and today is the day its contents will see the light again after seven thousand years.

The library is immense, with shelves packed full with manuscripts and books. Most of which are written in Tibetan and Sanskrit, but in the inner sanctum are items of rare provenance. Treasures hidden from the grasp of greedy tyrants and seekers after power. It’s even whispered that the angels themselves have gifted this place with relics of terrible and prophetic power. These are well hidden, no one, no one has access except for three people, Amunet being one. You may ask why this is so, that may or may not be revealed later in her journey.

Two monks carry the scroll carefully to a desk in one corner of the room and beckon her over. It exudes an energy that isn’t quite comfortable, hence the monks having to wear special gloves. She lays her hands on the document, asking permission to enter into its world. It senses her essence and unlocks the gates to a hidden world:

The Last Battle

These are the last words of the being known as Seraph. My time is nearing its end in this place of darkness, the hordes are numerous and I could destroy them all. Yet, this is not my task alone but for the ones to come. I shall wait as long as I can and no longer, this body is damaged and must return to its elemental home. The spaces between the worlds are widening, like wounds they bleed but it is time and not blood that flows. My kin wait for my signal, ‘not yet’ I tell them.

Bloodshed and hatred spread like wildfire over these lands, the hordes have hearts that are filled with a darkness no light can penetrate. The overlords of such evil stand like sentinels urging their minions onwards. I hear the dripping of poisonous words in receptive ears, what glamour and twisted magic is being wielded to bind and enslave? Have reason and humanity deserted their souls, the ones that are tempted? They would jump willingly into the Pit if ordered to do so. Threads of disquiet spread throughout bodies that appear defenceless. I hear their cries for salvation, trapped they are in realms we cannot go. That task is for our brethren, the ones so called Fallen. In whose eyes may I ask?

This is a battle that has played out for eons. Consisting of games infused with treachery and pettiness. What use is free will if it is twisted to suit the oppressor? Heed my words but I fear they will fall on stony ground. It approaches, like a tide of blood and anger. I hear its whispered threats but fear them not. ‘Come closer’ I urge it, it obeys. It holds aloft the sphere triumphantly, captured through treachery of one no longer alive. We offered the bait and they emerged from the shadows, grasping hungrily. All the knowledge of the Universe is distilled in that sphere, yet none can access its treasures.

It stands over me gloating and baring its teeth. A little closer, yes, believe I have only moments to live. Its breath sears my skin but this body is beyond pain. How arrogant the beast is, even placing the sphere in my hand. My fingers close round it and then it begins. My kin rise like a curtain of incandescent light on the horizon, and sweep across the land vaporising all in their wake. The beast turns in shock. I strike at that moment. It too vanishes, leaving ash drifting in the wind. Now I can depart this body. She lies breathless on the ground, blood and dirt besmirching her features. We gather her remnants and return them to the eternal flame, another warrior passes beyond the Veil. It is done and the relic is returned once more to our possession. This battle has ended but there are more to come. We must be ever vigilant.

Amunet looks up from the scroll to see a figure shrouded in light. They move into view and gaze down at her.  Those eyes, they look so familiar. The man smiles and speaks.

Man:

That fragment doesn’t give the full story Amunet, but it’s a start. We’ve been waiting for your visit. Are you intrigued?

Amunet:

Intrigued? I think you know the answer. Is it safe?

Man:

So far. Yet, I sense the same powers are on the prowl again. The lure of divine knowledge still holds them in thrall.

Amunet:

I think you mean the power it contains is what they’re lusting after. (Smiles).

Man:

(Smiles back). That and more. Their natures are unchanging, eternally chained to ravenous beasts demanding more of their souls. It twist and thwarts what grace is left in those fragile bodies. The overlords of the Pit beguile them with beautiful words and false promises. Promises of wealth and status. They feed on ambition, fear and anger.

Amunet:

Once tasted, always hungered after…They seek the light, but can never twist and subvert it. The ancient darkness will lose and realises this truth. That’s why it’s redoubling efforts to push this world into nothingness. How many times have I seen this being played out? It has to end soon, otherwise we will intervene and then there will be nothing left for either side.

Man:

 I, understand.  (Bows and turns to leave).

Amunet:

Seraph, my words may sound harsh but this has dragged on for longer than necessary.

The man pauses and turns. He nods in understanding and then leaves. Amunet rolls up the scroll carefully and waits for the monks. She walks over to the window and looks at the retreating figure of the one who was Seraph. He disappears into the mist that’s descended on the mountains.

 The saga continues.

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Image: LYJ19920520, Pixabay

 

 

Winter’s Eve

Image: Pixabay

Hush, hush echoes the owl’s cry as it watches the seasons pass, from the time of fullness to the must of decay.

The sacrificial King disrobes from cloth of splendour and relinquishes crown of gold. The Executioner comes, garbed in stealth and resolve.

The ancestors gather, bringing news from Otherworldy realms and blessings aplenty. The Dark Mother rises on wings of shadow and dream, awaits the battle of Holly and Oak.

The battle commences, blade against blade, life against death. How the sparks fly, setting the gloom alight. The Light wanes, ushers in the must of decay and life veiling.

The mighty blade cuts, the Oak King is felled, blood spills scarlet. The Dark Mother is satisfied, the sacrifice accepted.

The victor stands triumphant, the Holly King rises, holds blade aloft. Thus is the ritual complete, thus is the Sun mourned.

The Holly King gathers robe of splendour, bends knee to the Mother, awaits the crown of gold.

Thus is he crowned, holds court in the time of Winter. All Hail the Holly King! So is my dream complete.

 

Kindred Spirits

Image: Pixabay

It’s been a while since I last wrote about Amunet, formerly known as the Alchemist’s daughter. She’s an Alchemist in her own right now. Her departure was made at the end of Inconsolable: Flight of the Father having participated in the transfiguration of her father. Her guide and friend Roshanak also bore witness to this very important ritual. Some may view it as death, but what’s death but a transition from one state of being to another? Many spiritual traditions tell of individuals who can control the manner and process of their own deaths. Such was the case with the Alchemist and will be with his daughter. I watch developments in this area with interest as Amunet holds a special place in my affections. She asks pertinent questions about what it means to be human. Ones that I can’t either ask or answer.

The characters we write about aren’t just creations of our imaginations; we invest aspects of ourselves in their shaping and eventual life on the page (physical and digital). Stating the obvious I know. You could say we’re engaging in a magical act, the end result of our efforts being an outflowing of creativity. Amunet has helped me explore many questions about the inner and outer Universes. Many of them manifesting in posts on this blog, admittedly they may come across as being a little incomprehensible! Apologies for that, I tend to forget that there’s an audience out “there”. At times it feels like my characters and I are engaged in intimate conversation over tea or coffee.

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Image: Pixabay

What’s Amunet been doing since our last encounter? Travelling for a while, collecting memories, keepsakes and knowledge, and I’m eager to learn more. We catch up with her in a remote monastery somewhere in India, near the Tibetan border. She’s sitting with a fellow pilgrim, both having undertaken a journey of several weeks to get there. Their conversation is muted and filled with silences.

The Outer Dialogue

Amunet:

That’s the last I saw of Roshanak. Her path lay elsewhere, which is a shame as we grew quite fond of each other. Gatekeepers don’t always remain with you once their task is over, I was lucky she stayed so long.

Pilgrim:

Gatekeepers? I’d heard of them but thought they were a myth.

Amunet:

They are now, but when we remember what we were once, they appear.

Pilgrim:

Talking in riddles again! (Laughs).

Amunet:

(Stares intently) Not sure you’re ready to hear more. Let me think about this. Ask me tomorrow, I might tell you then.

Pilgrim:

Of course, I’ll see you in the morning. Goodnight Amunet.

Amunet watches the man leave, he looks deflated. Only natural, as their conversations are stimulating and highly enjoyable. Although impatience is a problem. Was he ready to hear more? How arrogant that sounds!

Me:

You don’t give much away do you?

Amunet:

Discernment and discretion are a necessary fact of my life. He’s trustworthy but not yet prepared for the knowledge I carry. Human nature can be profoundly perplexing and infuriating, that much I will acknowledge. How do you cope with the tumult carried within your psyche? It feels alien and unsettling.

Me:

We don’t always succeed but it can be managed. How can I put this? Being human can at times be a like a ringmaster in a very peculiar circus, with ourselves being audience and circus troupe.

Amunet:

Interesting imagery! What I want and need to know is the reality experienced by you.

Me:

You don’t make things easy do you? Not sure how to answer that. You ask a difficult thing Amunet, for me to bare my soul when I’m not ready to. What can I tell you? I search for meaning in an unknowable and vast Universe, at times not knowing where I’ve come from and where I’ll end up. My mortality is a source of occasional annoyance because there is so much to do and see. I’m wary of showing my vulnerability, perhaps fearing being hurt. These are the artefacts of my human self, buried in deep soil, waiting to see the light of day. I struggle with the frailty of the human body and projections of the personality, both mine and of others. Human nature makes me despair with its ugliness but feel elated when it reveals a deeply compassionate and divine face.

Without this body I would have no understanding and experience of the world around me. It gives me the opportunity to love and be loved, to hold, to feel and sense. I’ve been gifted with free will but don’t always exercise it. I’m in control of my destiny and world to a great extent, but my dysfunctional ego makes it a hell of a job to do the job properly. Fear is the tyrant we should all be on our guard against. You’re crying. Huh, never thought I’d see that.

Amunet:

They taste, salty, like seawater. Consisting of Elemental Water and Earth. Intriguing. I was created within the heart of the Sun, born of Fire, symbolising transformation and regeneration. My existence has been eternal and unceasing. I KNOW what it is to be immortal, it can’t be expressed in language you would understand. This Universe is but a partial reflection of the true glory of existence. You and I have need of the experience of the other to form the whole reflection. Time is meaningless.

Me:

“Time is meaningless”. I wish it was!

Amunet:

Trust me, it will unfold as it’s meant to. We are kindred spirits.

The setting Sun pours its fire through the windows of the little room and bathes the lone figure now sitting in deep meditation.

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Image: Pixabay

Duty Bound: Odin’s Gift

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photo credit: spratmackrel Auld One Eye via photopin (license)

There’s been much talk lately of Muses going AWOL and I’m duty bound to put in my penny’s worth, why not? Where the Shed is concerned should I be worried? Not really. Their absence gives me a little breathing space. I’ve been looking at my activities and decided that a change is due. This state of affairs may be the result of the number of Seers and Soothsayers congregating under my roof. They’ve been here a while, just peering intensely at the comings, goings and me. Rather disquieting, especially the ones from the far north, the land of fire and ice. They peer into your soul, divining fate and fortune from the bones of former lives. The realm of the One-Eyed One is a place not seen since the veils parted all those years ago, it occurred during a meditation if you have to know. Any more I can’t reveal, otherwise I’d have to hurt you a little. Your feelings that is.

We have a strange relationship, what a surprise…It’s the usual story of woman meets mysterious god, there’s an instant attraction and interests in common, god offers woman a proposal she can’t refuse, involving fringe benefits and travel. She accepts and may live to regret doing so. He offered me the runes, how could I refuse? It felt like a betrayal of my Khemetic roots, what would Anubis say? A ménage a trois wasn’t what I had in mind. Yet, the door he opened revealed aspects of myself not acknowledged.

This post had been languishing in draft form for several days, with little possibility of escape, until now. The One-Eyed one wasn’t going to let me work on anything else until it was completed. Damn you Trickster!

Who and what is he really? Will I ever know? Will I ever want to know? It’s difficult peering into my own soul much less one of something like him.

Who is Odin?

If you’re unfamiliar with Odin, he’s a Norse God who sacrificed himself on the World Tree, Yggdrasil, for nine days and nine nights in order to gain knowledge, the gifts of divination and prophecy. The ordeal on the Tree included extreme pain and suffering (as he speared himself on the side) in the pursuit of his goal. This whole experience has strong shamanic overtones… There’s usually a price to pay for seeking knowledge hidden from the living; his was the sacrifice of an eye in order to gain access to the well of wisdom beneath Yggdrasil. Such experiences serve to break down notions of Self and perceptions of reality. They shift the boundaries between different states of consciousness (sometimes referred to as non-ordinary and ordinary reality); so enabling the individual to interact with transpersonal beings in the pursuit of a particular goal (i.e. healing, gaining a guardian spirit animal).

The god is known by many names that reflect different aspects of his personality, one that encapsulates the might and power of nature:

  • The name is said to have its roots in the Old Norse word “od”, meaning wind or spirit (Óðinn).
  • In Old English he’s referred to as “Grim”, meaning “hooded or masked”.
  • Another name is Hrafnáss (“raven-god”), rather apt as he’s attended by two raven familiars called Hugin and Munin (“thought” and “memory”).
  • In Old High German his name was Wōtan.
  • He’s also known Allvíss (“all-wise”).

Odin’s reputation can be a little sinister, varying from duplicity to cruelty. He’s said to be able to change shape, practice necromancy, divination and prophecy. Battle, death and the gallows are other associations. Two wolves named Geri and Freki accompany the god on his travels and may hint at a wolf cult associated with him. As for his appearance, usual depictions are of a tall, thin, one-eyed man with shoulder length grey hair, usually wearing a long cloak and a wide-brimmed hat. The staff he carries is made of blackthorn. His steed is an eight legged horse called Sleipnir.

As you can see he’s excellent at multi-tasking. Okay, I’m trying to avoid the real issue here, having to fulfil my end of the bargain. Those often favoured by the gods are also subject to their (cruel) whims.

“You’ve seen sense now apprentice”, a voice mutters from the side-lines.

It’s all in the, er, eye, it stares at me with unsettling intensity.

“Unsettling intensity?” he stutters in shock.

“Please don’t pretend shock, you know what you’re doing”, I manage to get out, sighing loudly.

“Jan, Jan, how long have we known each other? Where’s the trust gone to?”, he responds in a pleading tone.

No wonder he was feared and approached with trepidation. Words were his weapon of choice, weaving hypnotic spells. You were tied up tightly without even being aware of his actions. He wasn’t one to be either spurned or ignored. Devious and manipulative so and so…

I eventually mutter, “how may I serve you High One?”

He answers, “accept what has been offered to you. Anubis and I have been waiting twenty years for your answer. Time for you to get moving sweetie,”

This is news to me, the fact that he and Anubis have been plotting together. Pantheons don’t always mingle but in this case they appear more than willing.

“Okay! Yes, yes. The finger will be pulled out and I’ll take it seriously”, my voice breaks in exasperation. He isn’t going to let go. I sob into my hands, well, pretend to.

“I can still see you Padawan, no point in trying to disappear. Can YOU see me though?” he whispers.

I peer at him through a gap in my fingers, one eye looks at the One-Eyed One. My attention flows towards the point of interaction, it swirls around him. The disguise falls away to reveal a strong and battle hardened face, an empty socket where an eye once was. He hasn’t been diminished by its loss at all. Such things he’s seen in the quest for knowledge of truths neither the living nor the dead can ever hope to learn. Odin has peered into the depths of the Void beyond existence, much like Anubis, and returned a different being. Perhaps this is what’s feared by our egos, change and letting go of old patterns. Also the deception of unworthiness, not being able to be up to the task and challenge. There’s safety in the familiar and known, that’s what we tell ourselves.

 

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

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Image: Pixabay

10 Months ago

Shadowed Dreams

Apologies for not having anything in this post if you’ve either stumbled across my blog or were looking for this post. I somehow managed to lose the contents today of all days (Halloween…). It was my response to Bernadette’s (of Haddon Musings)  writing challenge, It was a dark and Stormy Night. The post was death related…

Today

My original story was never meant to see the light of day, I understand that now for a variety of reasons. It was a stark story of a woman searching her home town for familiar faces on a dark and stormy night, one that ended badly for her. The spirits were in no mood to be trifled with on that chilling night, even the incursion of this writer into their realm was unacceptable. Hence the disappearance of my offering into the aether. Okay, it sounds melodramatic but I’m just setting the mood. All I wanted to do was make a few amendments directly on the site, forgot to keep a copy of it elsewhere. Then it vanished. How green and inexperienced I was during the early days of blogging. Sigh.

Perhaps it’s time to revisit the storm lashed location for a final ending. The story has been tweaked a lot and shortened. Perhaps due to my mood at this time:

I want to go home but this damned weather is making it harder and harder. Only been gone one day but everything looks so different, like years have passed. This isn’t possible. I’m tired and hungry, it’s disorientation, that’s the only explanation. Don’t feel well, why the hell is my stomach churning so much, I’d only eaten yesterday? Concentrate. There’s the road and looks like a car approaching. Hello! Please stop, stop! He didn’t even see me, what the hell is wrong with people?

At least the road is clear into town. Should be able to get a lift, more people travelling in. So cold, not surprised as I’m soaked through. Need to keep my mind occupied, otherwise I’ll not make it like Vida didn’t that night. They sent search parties out for several days but no luck. I miss her so much. This isn’t helping. Thank god, I can see lights now. Got here quicker than I thought, not complaining though.

There’s someone at a window. Hey! Please open up, I need to get home. Hello, hello. Why isn’t she opening the door? What’s happened to the townspeople? It used to be such a friendly place. The place feels, different. I can feel their thoughts, so frightened and angry. Their heartbeats are loud and fast, throbbing endlessly. They cling on to life selfishly and waste it so easily. Vida thought this was the case, she saw beneath the surface of this town, saw its rotten core.

Wasting my time here. Not far to go now, I can see the old district. Home, I’m coming home. That’s it, just keep remembering that but it’s hard. There’s this deep, deep emptiness inside. It’s a dark place with the shadows hiding things that shouldn’t see the light of day. Ah maman, what am I going to say to you? That I’m only home for this last time, then the world awaits. Freedom, of a sort! The wolves are stirring in the mountains, how chilling their cries sound but I love it. Always have oddly enough. They’re moving quickly through the forest, hunting, one mind, one purpose. We’ve almost destroyed them in our fear and revulsion of what they represent. The heart and spirit of true wilderness, Nature in all her glory and mystery.

Agh! I’m so thirsty and my stomach’s griping badly. What’s happening to me? There’s Mathilde. I’m so tired, a few more steps. She’ll know what to do. Eh, what’s Bastien doing here, with her? So thirsty. Bastard, he always fancied her. Surprised? I wondered when I’d catch you two. You look shocked, why? Because you got caught.

“We buried you ten years ago. You’re dead Vida”

That’s it, run away you coward and leave her here. Stop screaming woman! So thirsty but then you’re going to make that go away Mathilde, aren’t you? Lovely, lovely veins. Such soft skin and ruby, ruby wine in those veins. Don’t struggle, that’s a dear.

Perhaps my original story was never meant to see the light of day.

Road Trip to Hades

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Image: Pixabay

It’s been rather difficult thinking of suitable subjects to write about lately, then it hit me, I need an adventure to get my teeth into. The Shed’s rather quiet at the moment as most of the lodgers are on their holidays. Anubis has been absent for a while, probably engaged in guiding duties. Not in the Egyptian Underworld but in Bloomsbury, central London. I think he’s got a pretty good gig going on there. The place is crawling with denizens of the underworld. I had my suspicions for years but could never prove it. Odin and Sekhmet are on a walking holiday in Crete. Apparently Odin has distant relatives living there. Who knew? As for the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter, I prefer not to think about those two at the moment, they’ve caused enough havoc. Azrael, the Angel of Death and Cerberus are coming back from their respective road trips soon.

Reflecting on past encounters with the above archetypal figures, it seems evident that these individuals appear as “heralds” in our life. Joseph Campbell comments in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” that the appearance of such beings acts as “the call to adventure”[1], precipitating the Hero into life changing experiences. Of course there have been many occasions when I’ve refused “the call to adventure”, only to face inertia and negative situations.  The gods will only take so many refusals before making an offer that can’t be refused.

When the call is accepted supernatural aid appears at the right time. Enter stage left Azrael, Anubis and Cerberus. Two chthonic deities and the angel of Death assigned as planetary angel of Pluto in Qabalistic and medieval magical tradition. The power of Three consolidated. Containing within themselves the beginning, middle and end, past present and future, body, soul and spirit.

“Quite a lot to think about, isn’t it?” A voice mutters from stage left.

I turn to face three figures grinning at me from the shadows. Azrael gives a thumbs up and the canine terrors wink like mad. Not what you expect from these entities, beings traditionally associated with death, initiation, and dissolution. They also embody secrets and wisdom hidden deep within the Self. That’s been my experience, I can’t speak for anyone else.

“You want adventure and here we are, ready to offer you an experience of a life time as the cliché goes” Azrael comments quietly.

He watches carefully, eyes sliding to the fire escape. An eyebrow lifts in question. What are they up to? Cerberus pulls back a curtain to reveal a rather sweet looking VW van. It screams road trip. He then flourishes a sign with something scrawled on it. It’s written in beautiful copperplate script. HADES. Be still my beating heart! Is this the offer that can’t be refused?

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Image: Pixabay

The Road Beckons

The van is packed and this strange band of travellers gets underway. I’m not sure where they got the vehicle from, it’s like a Tardis inside. Anubis puts a toy Dalek on the dashboard and mutters something about the three of them being Dr Who fans. Azrael is outside checking his motorbike. The Angel of Death is a biker, well, well. We finally depart after a few minutes. The green landscape of North Wales flash by and then the road towards Ruthin and Llangollen is taken. The landscape changes soon after as a detour is made towards the ruins of Castell Dinas Bran in Llangollen. A portal opens near the ruins and the van whizzes through. We face an endless road in a desert landscape. The sky is bright and cloudless, the air is still, almost filled with expectation. Feet up, I’m busily scribbling my impressions in a notebook. How’s the journey so far?

It feels like we’ve been travelling for hours but it’s only been half an hour. Time moves in strange ways in this place, wherever this ‘place’ is. There are a variety of figures walking on either side of the road, one is holding a large clock, and its hands appear to be moving in an anti-clockwise direction. They smile at us and carry on walking. Each figure that passes bows their head in deference. Our exalted companions are the focus of their attention. The bleak but beautiful landscape is soon interrupted by a building that suddenly appears on the horizon. It’s an American style diner. Quelle surprise!

We disembark and find a booth to sit. The clientele are an odd assortment, consisting of shades of the dead and what appears to be the cast of “Frozen” ( I loathe that cartoon). Azrael greets a striking looking woman adorned with beautiful tattoos. She hugs him enthusiastically and kisses my other companions with as much energy. Finally she approaches me, her stare being quite intense. I stare back, kindred souls it appears. Hail mighty Ishtar!

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Image: Pixabay

The image of the figure holding the clock appears once again and the great river of time washes over us. The Goddess retells the story of her descent into the Underworld over a cup of coffee. Her hands and eyes convey the passion of her experiences, poignant and illuminating by turns. Her story is the story of our Soul, mirroring its many losses, regret, sorrow and moments of understanding. Her descent into Darkness, dissolution and eventual ascent into the Light show the way to new beginnings. She pauses and winks. A small box is pushed across the table, it’s a gift for us. Nestled in blue velvet is an eight-pointed star. An important gift, we must take note of its symbolism. She advises me not to eat or drink anything that’s offered in this place. Although this prohibition doesn’t apply to the Psycho-pomps offering me anything though. “Remember” her voice whispers in our head. She blows a dramatic kiss and then disappears. The other diners are still entranced by the tale of the Goddess, emboldened even by her resilience, also saddened at the prospect of no return. They eye Cerberus and his companions nervously.

At this point I’m thinking “if Cerberus is here, who’s guarding the gates of the Underworld?”

Cerberus pipes up “my cousin Cyril’s doing me a favour. I haven’t had a holiday for, oh, five thousand years. Sorry, I lied. There was that time when Anpu and I went on a bender at New Year several years ago.”

Wish he wouldn’t read my mind! I remember that incident, it was rather embarrassing trying to break the news to Hades. The canine terrors had to perform community service in a dance studio in Buenos Aires, teaching tango.

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As soon as we leave the diner it vanishes into thin air. A memory of things dreamt of by a younger world. Such phantasms litter the highways of the inner landscape, being stopping points for weary travellers. Dylan, our VW van carries on down the road. Azrael now leads, a magnificent presence enshrouded in divine light, all-powerful, all compassionate. Such beings rarely show their true appearance. It would mean certain annihilation for our spiritual and material forms, such is the magnitude of their power. Cerberus is chatting away with his adoptive brother, they laugh briefly. A few minutes later we hear cursing from outside. Cerberus has his bottom stuck in the window, it seems he was mooning at a passer-by. Well, Herakles had it coming, fancy kidnapping Cerberus from the Underworld as part of his Twelfth Labour. I think they’re even now. Dylan kicks into life and zooms down the road. We hold our collective breath, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions after all…

From a distance we spy a lone figure pushing a huge rock uphill only to see it roll back down again. Sisyphus, king of Ephyra (Corinth) was condemned for all eternity to carry out a futile task for his hubris, deceit and egotistical nature. We decide not to stop and make our way past Sisyphus. The fields surrounding the king are filled with Datura plants, a bad omen indeed. A warning is issued by our companions not to be deceived by this individual. The crimes he was condemned for in life are still valid in the afterlife, such as it is. He cheated death at least twice but was eventually dragged back to the underworld by Hermes.

Rituals, Blessings and Farewells

Dusk is falling and the night sky is now filled with gleaming points of light. We stop to camp by the roadside, no sense in travelling any further as it’s the dark of the moon tonight. There are rituals to be performed for the dead, one of many before we enter the Underworld proper. We sense them gathering around us, so many that are known and unknown. Prayers are said, offerings made, and respect given. Many have passed through the transition alone and unmourned, even unloved. For them these rituals are a balm and blessing. A release more importantly.

Azrael censes me with incense, for this night is significant for me as well. I must finally relinquish my old self, make the descent and lay her to rest. The Universe peers at me from his eyes, which are like stars blazing in a lapis lazuli sky. Azrael is considered the Angel of Death in Jewish and Islamic angeology, but there is no reference of him named as such in the Christian Bible. Additionally some scholars have disputed the name Azrail being used in the Qu’ran, the angel of death is simply called Malak Al-Mawt. He transcends religion and dogma, the sense is that he WAS before time began. It’s not the biker that stands before me now but something profoundly powerful, infinitely compassionate and gentle. Not to be feared at all. As for my Muse, His Nibs (Anubis) approaches next and rests his forehead on mine. We haven’t had much time to chat, which I don’t mind. He and Cerberus rarely meet and this is a special time for them. He chuckles. Damn! This mind reading trick does annoy me at times.

No sleep for the wicked tonight. We sit around the camp fire and eat dinner, except for Azrael. His nourishment is, well, not sure what he eats and drinks. He looks at me with a wicked gleam in his eyes and mouths “smoothies”. How can I respond to that? This is a moment I’ll treasure, for the companionship, laughter, and silences.

The Sun rises and our merry band of explorers continues on the last leg of the journey to Mordor, sorry, I mean Hades. The landscape becomes even drier and the skies are bathed in a peculiar orange light.  A huge cavern appears in the distance, this is it folks. I glance over at Cerberus, his three pairs of eyes mist up at the scene. Homesickness. I wonder what his cousin Cyril looks like? The van is parked near the cavern mouth and we make our way slowly into the depths. The tunnel is wide enough to avoid being claustrophobic thankfully. There is illumination provided by torches lining the tunnel, which is a little strange. My companions don’t question this, so I take their lead. The presence of dread is absent, for our journey is one where there is a return, an ascent into Light again. I mutter a prayer silently, for myself and she who bids farewell to this life. She shall face Persephone and Hades beyond the waters of Lethe, but I won’t be sipping its waters.

The three heads of Cerberus rise eagerly and give out an ear-splitting cry, but I’ve come forewarned and already inserted the earplugs. There’s an answering howl and a large Blue Roan Spaniel rushes out of the gloom and greets Cerberus. This is cousin Cyril. A Spaniel guarding the gates of the Underworld, why not? Cerberus and Cyril remain at the gates, to prevent the “inmates” from escaping they say. What jokers they are…

Our obols are ready for Charon the Ferryman, all we’re waiting for now are the priests of Hermes to accompany the deceased as we can’t go any further. She’s anointed with perfumed oils and dressed in a linen shroud. Obols are placed on her eyelids. I kiss her forehead and offer a blessing for the journey ahead. A blue lotus and heart scarab are placed on her chest, a remembrance of the homeland. She’s entitled to that at least. Our priests arrive with a bier and place her on it. We hand the obols to the priests as Charon approaches in his boat. So the journey begins and ends here. How prosaic it sounds!

The living have no reason to linger in these dread halls, so it’s time for me to leave. The smell of decay and forgetfulness linger in our minds. How I yearn for fresh air and sunlight to banish the stench of death! My wish is granted as we soon pass the two canine guardians and emerge into a changed landscape. The ominous light has disappeared to be replaced by bright, sunny skies. The desert is blooming and the road is rather busy. Dylan starts up immediately and we speed off towards the horizon. Home is a welcome sight as we emerge through the portal into Llangollen. By now a huge number of crows have massed in the ruins of Castell Dinas Bran, witness to our emergence. I’m looking forward to having a relaxing holiday, my companions are in agreement and we head down south to get the ferry from Dover to the continent. A holiday in Greece beckons! Suitably disguised we sit out on the hotel terrace watching the sun set into the ocean. Bliss.

[1] Campbell, J. The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Princeton University Press, 2004), “Part One, The Adventure of the Hero, Departure: Call to Adventure”, Chapter I, 46-47.

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Dragon Charmer

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My recent posts have been a brief respite from tackling the BIG issue in my life. Consorting with the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter has its downsides but they appear when needed. The job gets done and they watch from a safe distance at the resulting, mayhem. Mayhem and chaos are words I would also associate with the Greek god Dionysus, who is associated with the lifting of repression, inhibition, and release of desire. You need to approach him with care dear readers, his presence brings with it uncontrollable energies and impulses. Such energies serve to break down the façade of so called civilised behaviour and perception. Not always a bad thing if we are experiencing stagnation but keep Hermes nearby for damage limitation!

Now, what of this elusive BIG issue? If you look at some old maps there may be areas marked ‘here be dragonnes’. I’m currently in a place ‘where be dragonnes’, not always a comfortable place to be. They’ve been with me for a while it seems. We’ve fought on many occasions, with both parties drawing little blood. That is fortunate, no sense in these conflicts escalating into wars. I sense this will never be the case, the dragons agree. They come from a time when the world was an idea in the mind of creative forces. Being primordial and primeval in nature, bringing with them knowledge and memories of things power filled and mysterious. I don’t view them as being either evil or negative. They’re transformative symbols and the time is ripe to undergo change.

Instead of picking up either spear or sword, I decided to face them with a different mind-set. Why not charm them? One definitions of the word caught my attention:

“The power or quality of delighting, attracting, or fascinating others”.

(https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/charm)     

That’ll do nicely.

The sound of wings is already whispering in my ears. The outer armour is dropped but not my shield of Light; it would inappropriate to appear vulnerable so early in the proceedings. How does one proceed in the act of re-acquaintance/knowing with old friends, possible adversaries? Fear not dear readers I won’t descend into a florid, long-winded discourse, thought I’d take the route of a stream of consciousness. What needs to be said regarding these inhabitants of the psyche should be honest, plain and simple. If this resonates with you, please take a seat and try to enjoy the show.

The beat of their wings echoes the beat of my heart, one, two, three, four. The rhythm repeats, then pauses. Quite hypnotic. They’re approaching, cutting through the different levels, from sleep to knowing, then being. I pick up a helmet fashioned out of gold, with a dragon’s head carved on the top. Animal instinct transformed into Higher Knowledge. The ability to control that which is uncontrollable and carries immense power is therefore gifted to the wearer of such a helmet. It must be worn with honour and utmost integrity, if not, it burns with divine fire, obliterating all. My heartbeats get louder, as does the sound of their wings. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four.

They approach from the West, accompanied by the great Angel of that place, Gabriel. Four in all, three moving into their respective places in the North (Uriel emerges), in the East (Raphael emerges) and in the South (Mikael emerges). Such shimmering colours reflect off their scales, irridescent and alive. I close my eyes and sense their presences, seeing with the inner sight that which can’t be seen with the outer sight. Truth isn’t always apparent to our everyday perception. The Universe has a heartbeat and it becomes louder. One, two, three, four, five, one, two, three, four, five, one, two, three, four, five, one, two, three, four, five.

From the North emerges Sandalphon and transforms into a dragon whose scales reflect colours of the earthly realm and more. Such power and beauty, yet, I am reminded not to fall prey to illusionary beliefs. Of course. Are words necessary? He circles me, a circle within a circle. There is a hint of something more contained within this winged being. The Ouroboros comes to mind, dragon biting its tail. A union of the chthonian and celestial principles, of light and dark, beginning and end, cyclical in nature. He approaches and inspects, scrutinises, evaluates. I raise my hand in greeting and stare him directly in the face. The fire of creation is in their eyes, as are the waters of the primordial ocean. “I am ready” I say. We dance as rivers of light. I’m not afraid to be who I really am, perceived shortcomings and all. Like who you are. The charmer achieves her aim as do the charmed. It works both ways. It is done and they withdraw. The work now begins, to be courageous and face the fear.

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Tea With The Mad Hatter

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It’s been a while since the White Rabbit and I met up with his former cell mate the Mad Hatter. Sorry, I meant to say colleague, yes, that’s what I meant…My companion gives me a calm but deadly stare. There’s a faintly manic look in his eyes that makes me edge away slowly. You don’t mess with Fluffykins (my private name for the arch Trickster). I know that he knows that I know that he knows this most private of affectionate names. We choose to take the road of ignorance where this is concerned for very good reasons.

In this surreal group of ours, namely The Shedies, a little light humour is essential. Especially considering the past history of some of the members, and I include myself in this select number. You may not be aware of this but I love tea, most varieties except for Earl Grey. Never Earl Grey. Apologies for the outburst, it’s a subject I’m passionate about, as well as food history, food, cooking food, reading about it. Sigh. Where was I? Ah yes, tea with a certain tragic figure. Tragic? The Mad Hatter has a sad history. He was the toast of European society for centuries for one very good reason. The man’s skill in millinery was legendary. He lived hats, dreamt hats, and made hats. As for the sobriquet “Mad Hatter”, it pains me to go over that terrible incident.

Many cultures revere tea highly and rightly so. Its serving is couched in mystical ritual and ceremony, often elevating the senses to a state of oneness with the outer world. It can be used as a tool in meditation but that’s another story. Apologies for the digression but it does have a purpose in this tale of woe. The Mad Hatter invited us to a tea dance in a grand hotel in central London many years. White Rabbit, His Nibs (Anubis), Thoth, and I went ahead to the hotel, filled with excitement we were. My heart lifted as we neared the hallowed portals of the building, the smiling doorman ushered us in. We followed the soft refrain of a familiar tune, our feet eventually leading to the main ballroom. Sunlight showered through a glass dome that was the ceiling. The orchestra looked terribly elegant as did our fellow diners. Oh my, we spotted the Mad Hatter sitting at a large table to one side of the dance floor. What a rakish figure! The man was truly blessed with good looks, manners and grace. Admittedly his choice of garb was a little, florid and ostentatious. My heart still raced with admiration.

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This scene was a nostalgic reminder of gentler times (obviously viewed through rose tinted lenses). Yet, I sensed a strange undercurrent running through this room. The more I looked, the more the scene appeared to fragment revealing hidden things. Things perhaps not meant to see the light of day. Such is the energy that accompanies our merry band of misfits and magicians. We perceive the world in ways not usual with many, on highways rarely travelled. Shadowed shapes moved soundlessly amongst those present, were they either living or dead? It was hard to tell. Occasionally a figure would stop and pour something into a tea pot. It looked like light and gold dust. Such was the effect of this act that our surroundings shimmered and briefly vanished. It was apparent that there was another world behind our current reality.

I peered further into this strange new world and could see earth walls and ceiling, with roots weaving through tunnels and a large chamber. Suddenly the words of the Cheshire Cat echoed through my mind:

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”.

Yes, that made sense somehow.

The White Rabbit and His Nibs looked at me silently, whilst Thoth smiled that infuriatingly mysterious smile of his. I could smell the aroma of trickery and illusion in the air. The tension was broken as waiters served us with cakes and sandwiches. The Mad Hatter lifted the tea cup and breathed in the delicate scent of Oolong. He paused for a moment, a terrible look on his face. Was he grimacing? Suddenly a roar cascaded from his mouth, The tea was STEWED, quelle horreur! This was the last straw for the master milliner. He jumped and launched himself at the poor waiters serving at our table. A hand emerged from beneath the table and pulled me under. The White Rabbit rolled his eyes in despair. My other companions seemed to be enjoying themselves and just grinned at me.

I peered at the mayhem going on around us. There was a quality of madness about it. My intuition sensed powerful forces at work. “It’s Faerie magic” a voice whispered in my ear. His Nibs then laid a gentle hand on one of my ankles.  “Just in case” he muttered. Faerie magic. I felt an overwhelming urge to throw myself into the midst of the melee. Food fights seemed exciting and I always wanted to indulge in a spot of this particular mischief. His Nibs tightened his grip on my ankle at that moment. We could hear the Mad Hatter screaming at another diner. This doesn’t sound good. His voice was edged with hysteria. This was more than annoyance, what exactly did the Faerie folk put in his tea? Next thing hordes of police were pouring through the doors. We remained under the table, except for the White Rabbit. He, with the Mad Hatter were being dragged into one of numerous police vans. They didn’t worried, which was a little strange. I swear the Mad Hatter even winked at us.

Everyone “laid low” for several days. The White Rabbit and Mad Hatter were released after a couple of days, bail being put up by a mysterious benefactor, only known as “Queenie”. Hm. The Mad Hatter saw me briefly before going on an extended road trip. He kissed my cheek and then slipped a package in my hand. It was a box of tea, Assam in fact. All he said was, “treat it with respect”.

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Our band went separate ways for several years, only to meet up two/three years ago. My chance meeting with the White Rabbit in Llandudno recently was an omen of further shenanigans.