Aschenputtle 1967

Aschenputtel by Eleanor Abbot
Aschenputtle by Eleanor Abbot (1875 – 1935)

Walking through the field
on your way home from school.
The path leads through naked brush
along the farthest edge
of suburban wasteland.
The spring sunlight pours upon you.
Baby buds are crowning
bright and magnificent, each bud
quickened and specific in it,
and you can’t see it,
you can’t hold any of it.

Your new cat’s eye glasses
could bring it all into sharp relief
but you aren’t wearing them.
You can walk no faster than this
you think, walking forward.
The schoolyard shrieks and jeers
still ring in your ears
like sharp barbs and arrows
that prick and pin the tittered laughter
of the other girls on you.

Emergence drifts away from you,
the budding shrubs and yellow wintered grasses
along the edge of path shrivel and blur.
Nothing can enter that hazy bubble
you have made, that empty sphere
of shadowed space to hide within,
grieving because it is so dim.

Then there’s the girl, in the tattered dress,
kneeling in the ashes.
She has no mother, its true.
Her father deserted her,
her step mother despised her
and her step sisters turned from her.

Only a girl like this
can know what’s happened to you.
If she were here she would
reach out and place your glasses
back on your face
and tell you of how she planted a twig
that grew to become a hazel tree.
And though you might see nothing,
you would be seen all the same.

 

With gratitude to Margaret Atwood for her poem The Girl Without Hands.

Hylde-mođer (Elder Mother)

The Little Elder Tree Mother
Ellærn, eller, eldre
Eldrun, hyldor, hylanntree
Hylde-mođer you shall be.

Holding

My tender silver reaching roots
in winter cradle death.
Moulding,
mourning,
moving back.

Icy winds
whirl around my naked branches.
Black crows sail across the sky.
At night a million tiny moons
glitter in the snow drifts.

Quickening

The wind shifts
and the sun warms my branches.
My sap softens
and moves through me in a tickle of delight.

The flowing up
eases my holding.

Blooming

A ruffled feathered sparrow alights
in my branches
and calls to her sisters.
They chatter.
My leaves unfurl.

I am white blossom bliss.
Each a tiny peak of pleasure.
I tremble in delight,
gladly offering my innocence to the pollinators who
court me again and again.
My winter dreams are
carried off
on their wings.

Growing

Through the heat
and glorious warmth,
my white petals flutter and fly
like tiny winged ones.
They leave behind anchored green nubs
that grow and expand
and slowly reach into the darkest of pink red fingered stems
that end in green that turns to purple blue.

An anxious hummingbird flits by each day
to check their progress.
The cicadas sing.
The sun is regal and relentless.

Flowing

My plump purple baby berries
are staining,
draining,
dripping
from the beaks of cedar waxwings,
finches and flickers.

I am giving and giving as mothers do
all my love and labour
in that purple berry blood.
I collapse again and again
into the fullness of giving.
Mothering in the mercy
and the mourning
of the holding and the nestling
and the nurturing
and the letting go.

Returning

The winds begin to fly again.
Autumn tangles my branches.
My leaves spiral and fly.

A flock of busy grackles
come to feed on the last of my berries.
They are all I have left.

And when they are gone
I am content to settle.
For once again,
the deep dark ground is calling to me
of endings
in beginnings
and beginnings
in endings.

 

The elder was deeply honoured by Celtic cultures and chosen by the Druids as the sacred tree to rule their thirteenth and final moon. Elder was used by extensively by village hedge-witches for all its parts are rich and potent–leaves, flowers, berries and bark.

The elder speaks to us of regeneration and the power of the life force. The elder mother, or Hylde-mođer as she was called in Old Saxon reminds us of the never-ending cycle of life, death and rebirth, bringing power and hope at as the wheel of the year turns.

Image: Arthur Rackham. Illustration for Little Elder Tree Mother by Hans Christian Anderson

Goldenrod Grandmother

6a00e54fcf73858834022ad3a419d5200d-800wiSolidago sway and sing
of summer’s ending.
Life transcending.
Gilded golden on the wing.

Goldenrod Grandmother, where are you now?

It seems like only yesterday the path to your stone cottage was worn from our footsteps. During the day we came for your soothing elderberry syrups and your clover and linden teas. And when the shadows lengthened and curled around behind the evergreens, we would slip along the path for rose petal and hawthorne tinctures to mend the cracks in our broken hearts and agate amulets scripted with sigils to banish our fears.

On that  summer day we last saw you, the milkweed pod split and its silky white seed tails scattered across your fingers and floated down the meadow. The blood in your veins quickened to the rhythm of the cicadas  and as you set off to gather herbs, you hummed your own heart song to the purple loosestrife, orange jewelweed and the cloudy white flowers of virgin’s bower that climbed through the thickets and sparkled in the green overgrowth.

All morning you gathered tangy wood sorrel and succulent purslane. You dug stubborn burdock root and snipped the brittle stalks of dusty green seeded nettle that you carefully laid in your woven willow basket. And as you worked, the cicadas sang on and the sun rose higher until its honey warmth poured down upon your head and shoulders from above. It was only then that you stood up stiffly and realized that you would need a strong staff to lean on as you traveled home.

You rummaged through the ground for a fallen branch, but there was none to be found, so you picked up your basket and began your journey home. The path was stumbled and steep and your heart beat more quickly. You paused to catch your breath in the soft green filtered shade of the cedars that grew on the edge of the forest. The cedars sighed softly as a light breeze moved through their sweet scented sprays of green. “Our branches are too delicate,” they whispered, “And none are strong enough to support you.”

You continued on, your basket pulling your arm and your feet dragging along the rooted path until the cedars gave way to ragged Scotch pines who creaked and rasped and muttered crossly, “Go your way old crone. The needles on our branches are too sharp and they would poke you as you walk.”

Still struggling, you came upon a dancing family of spruce trees, their branches clasped together in a ring. “Oh no, grandmother,” they laughed. “Our branches have too much sap on them. You would dirty your hands and ruin your skirt.”

And so you laboured on until you came to a fragrant grove of balsam. Their citrus earth scent was like a hymn to the heavens and it lifted your spirits to breathe it deeply, but they too would not give up even one branch. “So sorry healer woman”, they sang in unison, “We have nothing for you. We need all our branches to reach for the sky and to send our prayers to the Goddess herself.”

By then, your heart was filled with such heaviness that you lowered yourself to the ground and your skirts billowed out around you. You watched as the auburn sun floated level in the western horizon and its golden light burnished all it touched. The cedar boughs trembled under its warm kiss, the spruce trees swayed in their sacred circle dance and the Scotch pines sighed and finally settled. The scented song of the balsams flowed into the air and made the Goddess smile. And there, hidden among the grasses, you found an old stem that was strong enough to raise you up and help you carry on.

As dusk fell, you took those final steps home. Your aches and pains evaporated and the wearisome weight of your long years fell away. We heard you singing your heart song to the sturdy stem that helped you on your journey home and your voice floated higher and higher above the trees until your keening drifted far and wide and it was full of love and lightness of being.

Some say you were transformed into a beautiful winged fae and wherever you flew, golden dust poured among the meadow grasses and a new plant began to grow. Its stems are straight, sturdy and strong and its golden yellow blossoms nourish us and lighten our hearts.

Goldenrod Grandmother, where are you now?

Does your heart song still hum in the gilded corbiculae of honeybees who visit the bright and brilliant goldenrod that dances tall among the swaying grasses?

Do you still gather the greenest herbs in the sunniest meadows?

Do you still search for the deepest roots near the clearest running streams?

Do you remember us Goldenrod Grandmother?

We remember you.

 

This piece is dedicated to my friend Amber Westfall who originally told me this beautiful story based on a folktale.  Visit her Wild Garden here: http://www.thewildgarden.ca/

Image used with permission:  High Tor Guardian by David Wyatt.  Visit his shop here: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/davidwyatt?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Old Nettle Woman

We are this land amara hollow bones
Image: We are this land by amara hollow bones

Old Nettle Woman finds me.
She comes to me in my deepest sleep.
She fills me with chlorophyll dreaming.
She whispers strength that flows from her fibrous roots,
and smiles the truth in the sting of her tiny needles.

Old Nettle Woman leads me to the creek side.
Her skirts rustle softly as she walks,
a delicate breeze in dark green leaves.
She settles on the bank beside me.
Her slender hands pull her prickly shawl closer,
and she gazes green on flowing water.

I bend my head to hear her soft voice,
and she spins a story of her lover the sun who courted her in the spring
by kissing and warming her tender maiden leaves.
She hums of crystal incandescent green and how she became so full of love for the sun,
that his light filled her and she unfurled her leaves,
And stretched her stems to reach for him in the deep blue summer sky.

Old Nettle Woman sits up straight while she sings of growing taller.
And then she smiles wickedly,
and weaves a tale of summer days when she pulled the sun so close to her
that the heat of their passion
burnt the tips of her leaves and left her panting in the dry dusty heat,
until the autumn rains came
and tiny droplets were succulent on her thirsty foliage.

I feel her scratchy seed clusters brush against my cheek,
and I strain to listen  more closely.
The heat of their passion is singing in the dusty mist of pollen as it is released.
Her tiny black baby seeds dance around her in the breeze.
Some settle around their mama and others fly across the creek
to live and grow in parts unknown.

All her children are beloved equally.

And I realize that she and I are the same.
The sun loves us and
our children fly in the breeze.

Old Nettle Woman bows her head.
She is of the water and the soil and the air,
and though her roots have begun to pull her back,
it is her passion for the sun that will most sustain her
when the winter snows begin to fall
and she sinks and settles into the earth below.

If you like this poem, listen to Bones and Feathers, a beautiful song by Emily Portman

 

Crone Mother at Calan Gaeaf

goddess of the western isleNow Winter is calling her.
The Western Gates are open,
And once again she stands in liminal space.
Not spinning, not weaving, not wondering.

She peers into the indigo depths ahead.
Straining to see in blackness that confuses her open summer eyes.

She pulls up her hood as shelter from the light,
And tentatively leans forward.
Still not sure if she wants to let go of the amiable warmth of summer.
She feels unclothed, light and airy,
Her diaphanous dress floating above the still green ground,
So full of light, so full of air,
Not ready to sink into the murky depths ahead.

She awkwardly and cautiously reaches forward,
And like the heliacal rising of Venus
she begins to shine as an evening star,
Brightest and retrograde, before her descent
and her triumphant rise again to the heavens.

Taking a deep breath
She pauses to seek the blessing of her Gods and Ancestors.
She whispers a prayer for those who have gone before
And those who will follow.
She blesses and purifies herself.

She allows herself to consider the infinite possibilities that lie ahead.

And as she stares, she can see the space between the light and the dark.
No,
She IS the space between the light and the dark.

She is the Goddess Inanna
Remembering a time when her confidence was strong,
And (not one to be taken by Hades),
It is she who chooses to descend into the darkness
and willingly offer her seven most treasured possessions.
From her root she offers her stability
And moving along her chakras she offers compassion, confidence and deepest love
Her voice, her vision and finally from her crown she proffers the deepest depth of her spirit.

And once again she is riding the edges of her dreams and goals.
She is navigating the world between normal and no man’s land
Stepping into her darkness,
Her soul a shining star in the heavens.

Image: Goddess of the Western Isles by Iain Lowe

And this:

Invocation (for Karen on her 50th Birthday)

Karen
By air and sky and deep blue mountain lake,
By sturdiness of soil and heat of passion’s flame.
By rough bark and strong trunk,
Deep roots and ever-widening branches.
By the wind and by the rain.

Shrug off your heavy cloak my darling,
Shake off the weight of your days.
Drop off your burden, slip out of your fear,
Release your inhibitions and go deep and deeper
Until naked, you step into this magical sphere.

Open yourself to our Mother.
Open to her pain and to her bliss.
Lean into the edge of her love and longing.
And fall forward into the deepest darkness of her kiss.

Drop down into the blackness
Slowly float into the depths of her devotion.
Experience the ecstasy of her grief and her glory
And let it take you to the magnificent river that will pull you
Into the truth of your belonging.

Now you are a wave rider,
Now you are the wave,
Now you are the force of love that will heal all wounds.

You must believe first,
And then remember this message:
You are deeply loved.
Your love is desired and valued.
Nothing will ever separate you from the sacred body of the earth,
Nothing will stop you from knowing her immensity.

With love from Amber

 

 

Image source: Unknown (with gratitude and apologies to the artist.)