Several years ago I did a performance with Don Sedgwick and Mary Knickle for Samhain Night. I read some original poetry, and Mary and Don played and sang. It was a great evening, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Below are the poems I read. They won’t make as much sense without the songs to go with them, but I hope they’re still enjoyable. I don’t write a lot of poetry, and this was the first time I’d ever written something like this, specifically to be performed aloud with music.
This night is Samhain night,
a magic time,
a night of reaping the harvest,
a night of cleansing fire,
a night of new birth,
and here we conjure you a welcome.
This is the night
when the souls of your ancestors
walk the earth, not in torment
but to bid you welcome to their ancient halls.
Come on in, they say. Have a look around. You’ll be with us, soon enough.
They ask us to look through the veil
that keeps their world apart from ours,
which is thinnest on this of all nights.
They ask you to acknowledge what has been done
before you came into this world,
as well as what will be done after you are gone from it.
But mostly, they bid you welcome. For they are still our people,
and they ask you to remember that you are the ancestors of tomorrow.
How long we toiled in the season of growth!
Bowing our faces to the earth,
giving our backs to the fiery sun,
plunging fingers deep into the soil
to plant the holy seed.
We prayed for rain,
and when it did not come,
we watered our crops with sweat
and the blood of those creatures our gods deem most pleasing.
Bless Cailleach, whom we also call Scotia,
the Mother of All, controller of seasons and weather.
We tremble at the sight of her terrible boar’s tusks,
we dread the stench of the haggish old rags,
that she throws over the moon to make it go dark.
We beseech her to bring it back.
So far, she has listened.
Bless Rosmerta, goddess of plenty,
who makes the milk flow from our cows
as plentiful as water from bubbling springs.
All praise to Habondia,
who fills our baskets to overflowing…
when the mood strikes her.
And thanks be to he whom we call simply the Green Man,
father of all plants,
husband to the Earth Mother,
whose sap rose strong in the stalks and leaves
of our sacred barley.
Let us taste now the fruits of our labor.
Lift the barley cake to your lips,
and take the sustenance it offers you.
Let it fill your stomach and gird your bones with iron.
We’ll need it. Winter approaches. The flesh recoils from the cold.
Soon enough, we will miss the lashes of the sun’s rays
across our aching backs.
EXTINGUISHING THE FLAME
And now is the time when we put out the flame.
Out it goes, and all is darkness;
and as it dies, so too dies the old year,
with all its trouble and strife,
its pains and gains,
its promises broken and fulfilled.
The eternal promise of heaven
is that we can always be reborn.
But before we can welcome the new,
we must blow away the husks of the days gone by.
Breathe in one last time the air of this past year,
and as it leaves you,
with this symbolic breath,
extinguish the light,
just as Beli Mawr will soon put out the sun,
leaving us shivering by our hearths,
huddled close to the flickering embers of the wood we gathered,
such a puny echo of the orb that gives us life.
RELIGHTING THE FLAME
We have surrendered once again to Cailleach’s call,
but now in all her glory and mercy
she permits us to beseech the goddess Brigid,
her other face,
not to forget us as we suffer the long sleep in our frozen cocoon.
So too do we render this new flame sacred
by our very intent,
and we share it with each other now.
We have died.
We will be born again .
And so will it be forever.
Give the flame to your neighbor, and make two flames.
Two become four.
Four become eight, and then sixteen,
and on and on, the light growing always,
never going out.
For the light will always overcome the darkness,
and darkness will never overwhelm the light.
Relighting The Flame — Reprise
But all is not gloom.
The autumn grape ferments in the barrel.
Wondrous magic takes place there,
a miracle indeed–
for water and juice, through means we understand not,
become that great easer of pains, that remover of memories,
the fuel for our storytellers to sing their rhyming songs–
I speak, of course, of
How do you make it through a winter?
By sleeping and dreaming of the spring to come.
When the wine lies low in the barrel,
and the sun’s weak glimmer has become a knowing stare,
for the ice will drip,
the snow will rot,
the earth will soften,
and it will be spring.
Farmers return to their fields,
hunters to the forests and plains;
but there are always those who grow weary of the endless toil
and seek adventure elsewhere, in the big cities, on the high seas.
Spring makes our young folk mad,
and off they go, down the rocky road,
perhaps never to be seen again.