Hecate I praise, fair maiden of the crossroad,
you who see things hidden, who heard Persephone
as she cried out from the underworld. Hecate,
with whose help did Demeter regain her dear child;
whose torches light the moonless night; who guards the gate;
who receives due offering wherever three roads meet;
yours, goddess, are shares in all the realms. Hecate,
who travels freely along all roads, I praise you.
To you, Hecate, are the mysteries known.
To you do women ever turn for protection.
To you do those who work magic pray for wisdom.
Hecate, ancient one, I praise and honor you.
— by Hearthstone
Speak to me in the language of
Stone and Moss: the brook and
Fox-den know well my mother-tongue.
Let us be clear:
This Moor-language sings sweeter
In my ear than all the songs
I ever heard from angels,
Clear and beautiful as they were.
I tell you no lie,
The temple of Artemis at Ephesus was made by a woman,
the Amazon Otrera, wife of Ares.
The Amazons made themselves in Her image,
armed themselves with bows,
burdened themselves with offerings
for Artemis as they fled from Herakles.
She protected them and led them,
inspired them and loved them,
Artemis rarely called motherly,
Artemis rarely called kind.
Love is not always soft.
Patronage is not always simple.
Artemis was called Goddess of the Amazons,
and they loved Her with a sharp,
warlike love, and built temples
and wooden statues to honor and ask
for Her love in return.
I tied together
a few slender reeds, cut
notches to breathe across and made
such music you stood
shock still and then
followed as I wandered growing
moment by moment
slant-eyes and shaggy, my feet
slamming over the rocks, growing
hard as horn, and there
you were behind me, drowning
in the music, letting
the silver clasps out of your hair,
hurrying, taking off
I can’t remember
where this happened but I think
it was late summer when everything
is full of fire and rounding to fruition
and whatever doesn’t,
must lie like a field of dark water under
the pulling moon,
tossing and tossing.
In the brutal elegance of cities
I have walked down
the halls of hotels
and heard this music behind
Do you think the heart
is accountable? Do you think the body
any more than a branch
of the honey locust tree,
hunching toward the sun,
shivering, when it feels
that good, into
Or do you think there is a kind
of music, a certain strand
that lights up the otherwise
blunt wilderness of the body –
and unaccountable selectivity?
Ah well, anyway, whether or not
it was late summer, or even
in our part of the world, it is all
only a dream, I did not
turn into the lithe goat god. Nor did you come running
Recently I read Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It was recommended by a teacher in ethnobotany and edible and medicinal plants who I’ve taken a few classes from. Within a few chapters I understood why she praised the book so highly.
On some level many of us know that something is wrong. We know that the way we live isn’t sustainable–unfortunately “sustainable” has become a buzzword, ironically robbing it of meaning–and that we damage the Earth in ways that will take a long, long time to recover from…while meanwhile, the damage continues.
This is something that either bothers you or it doesn’t. If it does, Braiding Sweetgrass comes as close as anything I’ve read to laying out another path. Because everyone who agrees that there’s a problem is largely in agreement about what the problem is. It’s solving it that’s challenging: because, first, finding and articulating a vision of what that solution is, of what that other way looks like, is hard.
In general we have some notions about getting back to the land, about eating local and consuming less. These are generally good things to do because they help develop awareness of the bigger problem, the one that individual choices cannot solve because it is systemic.
Braiding Sweetgrass makes its case via the sciences of botany and ecology, the interdependencies of spirituality and religion, and the grief and passion of people who have seen their land ravaged and their way of life all but destroyed. It’s facile to observe that much of the argument for saving the planet is really about saving ourselves: the planet will continue to exist, probably even with life on it, long after our species has worn itself out.
Kimmerer, though, points out that in devouring our world, we are also devouring ourselves. I see it not only in industrial agriculture that produces more than we could ever use, then wastes it due to market forces; the determined glutting of markets for everything from oil to timber in pursuit of profit; but also in the grinding poverty from which people living in the richest country in the world cannot escape; the stress, anxiety, and rage within even those who by any standard are doing well; the rampant paranoia of a nation as unable to come to terms with its past as with its future.
Wild Gods is dedicated to living in partnership with the world that birthed us. This isn’t just a nice idea, but essential. Kimmerer herself asks the question: who will arrive at Hekate’s Crossroads first? Those who will save the world? Or those who will destroy it?
“All that effort, and it just takes one dog running through the shrubbery, or one group of people chatting as they push through a trail-free area, to disrupt the delicate nesting process that’s the culmination of weeks of effort, the future of that little family.”