Wine-Dark Sea

April is, as the poet said, the cruelest month. And, April is National Poetry Month. The connection isn’t lost upon those of us who love poetry.

I have a theory — and it’s backed by zero research — that those who love poetry were introduced to poetry as young children, sitting upon laps, dancing around flames, kneading dough. And that those who say, “I’ve never gotten [have always hated] poetry” were first exposed to poetry in school. Often by having to memorize it. Perhaps, even, by being forced to scan it.

Some of my dearest friends who “don’t get” poetry can quote you line and verse of song lyrics. And many of those song lyrics qualify as, at least, mediocre poetry. The only difference, in many cases, is whether the words are spoken or sung.

Druids, in particular, have a long relationship with poetry.

Where does the poetry come in? What little we know about the ancient Druids includes some information about the role of bards in Celtic societies. Whether or not the bards were part of the Druidic religious path I can’t say, but there is no doubt that they were an important feature of Celtic culture. For someone interested in things Celtic, and a Celt inspired spirituality, the bardic tradition therefore is an appealing one. The romantic image of the windswept wandering bard, harp slung over shoulder, is alluring. There is consensus that poetry was very much the domain of the historical bard.

But Witches, as well, have a long relationship with poetry. Auntie Doreen, for example, gave us:

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called Artemis; Astarte; Diana; Melusine; Aphrodite; Cerridwen; Dana; Arianrhod; Isis; Bride; and by many other names.
Whenever ye have need of anything, once in a month, and better it be when the Moon be full, then ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all Witcheries.
There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not yet won its deepest secrets: to these will I teach things that are yet unknown.
And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye are really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise.
For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and mine also is joy on earth; for my Law is Love unto all Beings.
Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever toward it; let naught stop you or turn you aside.
For mine is the secret door which opens upon the Land of Youth; and mine is the Cup of the Wine of Life, and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of Immortality.
I am the Gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart. Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold I am the Mother of All Living, and my love is poured out upon the earth.
Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven; whose body encircleth the Universe; I, who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white Moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the heart’s desire, call unto thy soul. Arise and come unto me.
For I am the Soul of Nature, who giveth life to the universe; from me all things proceed, and unto me must all things return; and before my face, beloved of gods and mortals, thine inmost divine self shall be unfolded in the rapture of infinite joy.
Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou know this mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.
For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.

At the end of desire.

Is there a more poetic line anywhere short of “wine-dark sea”?

Poetry is a large portion of my own praxis. What role does it play in yours?

Picture by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.


7 responses to “Wine-Dark Sea

  1. Come and Be Welcome — Heather Dale

  2. “I have a theory — and it’s backed by zero research — that those who love poetry were introduced to poetry as young children, sitting upon laps, dancing around flames, kneading dough. And that those who say, “I’ve never gotten [have always hated] poetry” were first exposed to poetry in school. Often by having to memorize it.”

    Agreed. And this holds true for good prose as well. I know many and many a person whose high school English classes engendered in them a deep loathing for literature of any kind.

    When any of my friends have a new child (or, as is more commonly the case these days, a new grandchild), my invariable gift is a book of simple poetry that the parents can read to the new one, together with a suggestion that they do so frequently.

    Re. songs as poetry: The oldest written melody discovered to date is a hymn to Nikkal, the Radiant and Fruitful One. Link here for a video of an instrumental performance.

  3. Sorry, the video link didn’t seem to come out right. Here’s the URL:

  4. Pingback: Rainy Day Links | The Practice Room

  5. Loreena McKennit has done a lovely job of setting some beautiful poems to music. I credit her with helping me to learn Yeats’ Stolen Child by heart. And my nominee for most beautiful line(s) in poetry:

    leaning softy out
    from ferns that drop their tears
    over the young streams…

    I know she changed a few words, but it is still a poem that makes my heart swell at its beauty every time. Just the words “young streams” take me instantly to a magickal place.

  6. “reddest stolen cherries”
    also the most beautiful line of poetry. You just know that they are delicious beyond imagining.

  7. Poetry is a big part of my practice as well. I think one of the great things Pagan orgs are doing is helping us share and refine our poetry in anthologies and other publications.

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