I have long believed that writing is a shamanic art. The earliest spoken language must surely have been poetry, because word is metaphor and voice is music, and where these are combined, poetry begins. In its written form language must have been developed as a magical art of shamans. The intrinsic power of writing remains today, and like other shamanic arts, it is one by which the multiple realities of our existence may be understood and integrated, an art through which reality can be created or altered. (more)
Tag Archives: shamanism
I. Merlin wandered hickoried hillsides,
Ceridwen’s pig his wild last companion,
his grunting beloved and pignuts
rooted within his brain
till writhing cerebellum birthed
relentless words piled end-on-end.
A torrent of phrase haunts all sleep,
has climbed its banks and washes
over muddied rocks the slippery stumbling
of toes on a path
where hickories grow
out of Merlin’s brain
II. In medieval Russia there wandered
peasant monks who could not put one word
before another rough-robed and barefoot
surviving on begged black bread
“Fools for Christ” they were called
on their lips an endless prayer
a circle bound of words
to banish words
a wilderness of words
that might otherwise lead
a spiraled ladder upward
out of mind
III. There is madness disguised
that skulks behind the words
of popes and princes
and poets and paupers
and there is madness
such as Merlin’s
that brings us finally
into the companionship of pigs
IV. And pigs shall lead us in slow
and grunting time
to Cernunnos antlered and oak-crowned
seated yogic at the World Tree
whose supple limbs are fruited
with the stars whose tap-root
reaches into Ceridwen’s core
the maelstrom of formless words
where Merlin fell
and falling found
Across abyss, from cliff
to higher cliff, wing-beats steady,
goes Raven—a flake of night,
across the blue sunburn of sky.
In the rocks above, hidden,
a nest waits
as it has waited
since before the ancestors sailed west,
toward mysterious shores.
From behind my left shoulder,
wings whistling in the wind,
Peregrine slices into the sky
out of some other where.
The gods of whom the ancestors spoke
were no myth—Aeolus is here;
a bolt of gray
Raven, heavy in the face
of so much grace, wheels,
spread-winged to meet this fury.
They levitate, rising in the air
without a wingspan
to separate them.
Eternity was never so long
as this hovering moment
of eye-to-eye silence.
Peregrine then spins to vanish,
bowshot, back across my shoulder
and out of time.
The heart beats again.
Raven resumes heavy flight
toward a rocky nest
that has waited
the ancestors came.
Raven dances out
from the cliff wall
in an awkward crooked
circling; flapping, squawking
like a benighted chicken.
Mischief in the message,
in any language.
Peregrine is there in the instant.
How is this possible?
From my vantage point on this cliff
I see miles of countryside,
miles of open birdless sky.
He simply is not there,
and then is there—no intervening moment
But Raven—Bird of the North,
Eye of the Ancient One—Raven sees.
until the instant before the instant,
and then flits to the safety
of the ledge. Derision fills the air.
Peregrine, unmoved, flips in midair,
then skates back along the updraft,
coasting along the cliff’s side
until he is abreast of me.
black eyes boring in,
scrying the raven
a shrug of the wings,
and he is gone.
Along the edges of the upper cliff,
behind me, a sudden flapping:
Raven, rising from the dry grass,
struggling a moment
to break free of earth-grasp,
then catching the wind to sail up
around the brow of the ridge,
and a moment later, back again,
into the branches of a scrub oak:
I puzzle this riddle.
The answer comes quickly,
floating up the breeze from behind me:
Peregrine, motionless, silent,
brushes the very branches
of the meager oak
where Raven shelters.
A flick of wing, and he is gone;
a moment later, back again—
two of them this time—
ripping the fabric of the air
with their speed. They dive
down the face of the cliff,
corkscrewing around each other
as they go, then south, the half-mile
length of cliff and back again,
before I can remember to breathe.
This is not a game anymore.
This is death, dancing on silver wings
with claws of steel, dancing
new definitions of grace, dancing
until the mind reels
and will not see any more.
I would live for nothing, to meet
such a death as this!
Ten minutes, the dance goes on,
or a year—time has collapsed—
and then they are gone.
I sit; I breathe, raggedly.
I rise, walk to the Raven tree,
and sit again. She is huddled still,
almost within reach,
ragged as night
shattered by a meteor.
Awkward on her branch,
she turns her back,
will not face me.
She stretches her right wing
again and again, painfully.
Ravens are everywhere now, calling.
One more stretch of the wing
and then she hops upward,
to flap slowly
on the highest point of cliff,
I sit. Granite, lichen, a scrub cedar—
and a thousand feet below,
the forest floor.
I scoot downward,
closer to the edge, for a better look,
and from this new vantage,
turning to the south,
find myself face-to-face,
No more than an arms’-span and a wingspan
separate us. Raven unfurls her wings,
a flower of night,
but I say softly,
“No, please don’t go.”
She considers, then settles herself again.
We sit, looking at the valley below.
She straightens a feather,
picks at a bit of quartz shining in the rock,
and we bask in the aging
Ten minutes pass, twenty;
the sun settles. At last, apologetic,
I rise to go. She bobs her head,
leaps into the breeze,
and is gone before me.
There is comfort in this sitting,
and comfort in this parting;
comfort in the knowledge shared
behind a rift in the sky
—by Nick Vittum