Sep 062018
 

Find the well by the lake of memory. Guardians protect the cold water. Tell them…
Orphic Fragment

I am standing in the centre of a great rectangular hall with my head held high and my long, bright hair wound into an elaborate arrangement that is held in place by a gleaming diadem. My white linen robe is bound with pure gold and I am still as a statue, with one eye fixed upon the future as the other observes what is past.
The air is cool beneath the temple roof. The only sounds that can be heard are an occasional bleating of goats and the distant murmuring of servants as they make ready for the Spring Council, which is to be held here in three and a half days. I have already swept clean the marble floor and it shines like the full moon of Amalios. Early-morning sunrays flood the hallowed space, infusing every atom. Narrow gaps between the thick, rounded pillars reveal sections of a motionless scene, silent as if time had ceased.
Happy are the men who enter this house and ask of me, “What do you see?” The wisest make the best of the answer they are given but others seek more, seldom to any avail, for there is a way that we do things at this place – here at the navel of the world – where the future is inscribed on lead.
I stand within the fourth Apollonian Temple to have been built here, which has undergone extensive repair works following the War that almost destroyed it.
The first Temple was much smaller than the present building and constructed from branches of Thessaly’s sacred laurel trees; the next was created by bees of wax and feathers, designed to bridge the gap between Earth and the underworld. Bees make the journey to and from Hades as a matter of course and the secrets they retrieve are for the golden ears of Apollo and his twin sister Artemis, keeper of the moon.
The third temple was a great bronze edifice which stood for many years before the heat of the Sun God melted it back into the Earth, and the fourth was built before I took up my office. The fifth shall not be put on its foundations before I have left for the Elysium Fields.
It is on the seventh day of each month that the future lives of men are unveiled and they come from all parts of the Earth to know what the fates have in store for them. This is except for during the winter months, when twice-born Dionysus returns and natural chaos reigns in place of Apollo’s measured reason.
When frost is on the ground and the sheaves of wheat have frozen back into the Earth – when the great white star of Maia appears on the horizon – then it is that nine wild maenads will herald the arrival of Dionysus. His body is buried close to where I am standing and during his season our dedications are made for the following year’s harvest, while we pray that the sun God will return, his golden youth resurrected anew.
When I am satisfied that the purification rituals have been performed correctly and the Temple is perfectly clean I walk towards the entrance of the great hall. It is elaborately decorated with all manner of votives – burnished golden shields, statues, cauldrons, tripods and bows – from all four corners of the Earth. Counted amongst them are the ensigns and symbols of every noble family that is known to this world.
I instinctively look up before leaving Apollo’s house, to above the entrance where a thousand garlands of laurel create fragrant canopies beneath the ceiling and pay host to the songbirds that sing his praises. The sweetest voice I ever heard belongs to the nightingale, who reveals to those with ears to hear the innermost longing of the psyche. A pure, shrill note breaks the silence and escapes into Echo’s lonely realm. When daybreak comes I shall return.

Apr 252012
 

I begin to sing of Demeter, the holy goddess with the beautiful hair.

And her daughter [Persephone] too. The one with the delicate ankles, whom Hadês seized.

She was given away by Zeus, the loud-thunderer, the one who sees far and wide.

Demeter did not take part in this, she of the golden double-axe, she who glories in the harvest.

She [Persephone] was having a good time, along with the daughters of Okeanos, who wear their girdles slung low.

She was picking flowers: roses, crocus, and beautiful violets.

Up and down the soft meadow. Iris blossoms too she picked, and hyacinth.

And the narcissus, which was grown as a lure for the flower-faced girl by Gaia [Earth]. All according to the plans of Zeus. She [Gaia] was doing a favour for the one who receives many guests [Hadês].

It [the narcissus] was a wondrous thing in its splendor. To look at it gives a sense of holy awe to the immortal gods as well as mortal humans.

It has a hundred heads growing from the root up.

Its sweet fragrance spread over the wide skies up above.

And the earth below smiled back in all its radiance. So too the churning mass of the salty sea.

She [Persephone] was filled with a sense of wonder, and she reached out with both hands to take hold of the pretty plaything. And the earth, full of roads leading every which way, opened up under her.

It happened on the Plain of Nysa. There it was that the Lord who receives many guests made his lunge.

He was riding on a chariot drawn by immortal horses. The son of Kronos. The one known by many names.

He seized her against her will, put her on his golden chariot, And drove away as she wept.

She cried with a piercing voice, calling upon her father [Zeus], the son of Kronos, the highest and the best.

But not one of the immortal ones, or of human mortals, heard her voice.

Homeric Hymn to Demeter

Apr 232011
 

‘“Down he went, to play for Hades –
God who had the lady hidden –
Eurydice, the lovely maiden,
She, who by the snake was bitten.

‘“Hearing as he strummed so gently,
Sang a Dithyramb, song of heartache,
Hades’ wife wept tears for twenty,
Whilst the God himself shed plenty.

‘“Weeping like a bride, old Hades –
He that might undo the death-spell –
Said to him: “Oh Prince of Poets,
Sweeter is your song than nectar.

‘“Henceforth shall our guide be Eros,
God of love. Your song convinced us
That we should release the lady,
On but one condition, only.

‘“You must not set eyes upon her
‘Til she’s reached the land above us.
Did you, Prince, take care to listen
“Well? Else fail in this, your mission.

Apr 232011
 

‘Then there is a moment’s mourning –
Plus a second more for staring –
Tears are shed but others, yawning,
Tell the world they’re done with caring.

‘Lord Apollo grasps Athena
Whispering: “He’s a fool this fellow;
Since he’s freed the Greeks of Cretans
So shall rise beloved Athens!

‘“Praise the day we let the ‘Gyptian
Take free reign of this, the Cosmos.”
Then the Sun-God, Fair Apollo,
Overheard the thoughts which followed:

‘‘I could devastate Olympus,
Cause beneath a mighty tremor,
Make the things of Earth grow frantic,
Stir up all the great Atlantic.

‘‘Thus, the lovely Aphrodite,
I should banish her to Venus.
Then, for Ares – he who’s caused this –
Mars is just the place to bind him.’

‘‘Hera fits the great, bright walkway,
Hades, we’ll consign to Pluto.
Yet the father, Old Poseidon,
Let him run his steeds on Neptune.

Oct 182010
 

“Tell me, Circe, who is to guide me on the way? No one has ever sailed a black ship into Hell.”

“Odysseus,” the goddess answered me, “don’t think of lingering on shore for lack of a pilot. Set up your mast, spread the white sail and sit down in the ship.

The North Wind will blow her on her way; and when she has brought you across the River of Ocean, you will come to a wild coast and to Persephone’s Grove, where the tall poplars grow and the willows that so quickly shed their seeds.

Beach your boat there by Ocean’s swirling stream and march on into Hades’ Kingdom of Decay. There the River of Flaming Fire and the River of Lamentation, which is a branch of the Waters of the Styx, unite round a pinnacle of rock to pour their thundering streams into Acheron.

This is the spot, my lord, that I bid you to seek out. Once there, dig a trench about a cubit long and a cubit in breadth. Around this trench pour offerings to all the dead, first with honey mixed with milk, then with sweet wine, and last of all with water. Over all this sprinkle white barley and then begin your prayers to the helpless ghosts of the dead. Promise them that once you are in Ithaca you will sacrifice in your place a barre heifer, the best that you have, and will heap the pyre with treasures and make Teiresias a separate offering of the finest jet black sheep to be found in your flock.

When you have finished your invocations to the glorious fellowship of the dead, sacrifice a young ram and a black ewe, holding their heads down towards Erebus while you turn your own aside, as though about to recross the River of Ocean. Then the souls of the dead and departed will come up in their multitudes and you must bid your men make haste to flay the sheep that that are lying slaughtered by your blade, and burn them up while they pray to the gods, to mighty Hades and august Persephone.

Sit still yourself, meanwhile, with your drawn sword in your hand, and do not let any of the helpless ghosts come near the blood till you have had speech with Teiresias. Presently the prophet himself will come to you, my lord king. And he will lay down for you your journey and the distances to be covered, and direct you home across the fish-delighting seas.”

Circe finished, and soon after the Dawn enthroned herself in gold.

Homer, The Odyssey

Aug 122010
 

Tonight, of all nights, Perseus borrows the winged sandals of Hermes, diamond sword of Hephaestus  and magical helmet of Hades.

Medusa will be slain and Pegasus born.

What a hero it is – with the help of a goddess – that makes possible for a gift such as this to be given to the Muses!

Mar 132010
 
Spinx at sunset

Emerald Tablet

Looking through the space for Hermes –

Author of a timeless vision –

King Osiris clicks his fingers,

Summons then a great revision.

‘‘Thoth the Ancient – Time Atomic –

Step beyond the cloak of Hades.

You have made a greater promise;

Once, upon a time, you made it.

Show me now the emerald shining

Deep within your mind, the word press.

Show my wife the sacred Ibis,

Let us all forgive. Today’s blessed.”

Hermes gives himself a second

And a third, so time is taken –

Rather than make haste, unreckoned –

Pauses while the epochs waken.

When his memory serves him rightly,

Thoth the ancient speaks: “Osiris!

Fare thee well? The bits and pieces

Are as one; she loves thee, Isis.

How might I now be of service?”

Asks the one with dispensation.

“Should I write it as I heard it,

So to speak, unite the nations?”

King Osiris, King of Egypt,

Smiles at this and kisses Isis.

“See, my love, he’ll keep the remit,

Make our endless story timeless!’

Thoth, now, phrase the hidden secrets –

Thoth the priest, the Master builder –

Write the way.”  The sun-mind keeper,

Brings to light what Earth held deeper.