Ruby Sara is the author of Pagan Godspell and the editor of the forthcoming collection Datura: An Anthology of Esoteric Poesis. She is also a member of the Chicago Pagan performance collective Terra Mysterium.
Greetings, Pagani, from the wind-warm and lake-gorgeous streets of the urban Midwest!
I’m very excited to be guest blogging here at The Wild Hunt today – many thanks to Jason for the opportunity!
The rose bushes on my porch are giddy with the astonishing, blustery and honeyed weather. Walking through the neighborhood this week I saw approximately two zillion (I counted) crocuses, daffodils, and blue scilla flowers peppering the gardens of my fellow city-dwellers. April! Month of poetry and hyacinths. Wind and verse. April is National Poetry Month here in the US. Certainly a delightfully auspicious time for the release of Datura: An Anthology of Esoteric Poesis, published by Scarlet Imprint. It’s safe to say that I’m practically over the moon excited about this book. As readers over at Pagan Godspell can attest, I am something of a rabid fan of poetry. Indeed, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I believe that poetry is the language of magick. The language of the gods. A fire in the veins, with the smokelight prism, jewel and thunder of religion as its fuel.
Poetry’s role in the devotional and magical lives of the Pagani is manifold. It can be used in magical practice both in riddling (i.e. grokking a text for its deeper meaning), and in inducing trance (alliteration, rhyme, evocative word choice – all can assist the individual in Diving Deep and Surfacing). It can be used to communicate the ineffable in ways that are inaccessible through prose or didactic speech. It can bring people together in worship and in prayer. It can act as a channel between a people and their god. It can illuminate what was previously hidden, and make opaque things that require occultation. Poetry works the mind and the heart – it infiltrates the bones. Poetry works.
Poetry works both in the writing and the reading of it. The writing of poetry is an excellent medium for communion with the Holy. Last Sunday I had the privilege of attending the 2010 Milwaukee Ostara Festival in Wisconsin, where I presented a workshop on writing Pagan liturgical and devotional poetry. In answer to the question, “Why is poetry important in liturgical and devotional practice?,” one participant commented that the writing of a poem is an act of deepest respect, which was an excellent point. To write poetry is to engage with the subject in intimate detail, to devote to it your complete and undivided attention – to make the act of observation an offering. This is true also of poems with no ostensible spiritual element – to write an effective poem about a moment or an object requires Seeing it truly, with your whole body, via the lens with which you view the world. This is what makes poetry unique as well – the meeting of observer and the observed in the medium of language means that poems written about, say, plums by one poet will look very different than those written by another. To engage in an act of spiritual scrutiny with what is Holy then is to engage in authentic relationship. It’s not unlike, in my limited experience, the act of translation. I’m thinking for example of Normandi Ellis’ Awakening Osiris – a translation of the Egyptian Book of Coming Forth By Day not in its most literal expression, but in its spirit – Ellis’ deep grokking of the flower beneath the words and her transmission of its meaning via her unique perspective and the use of exquisite, embodied imagery has breathtaking results. “From the first cry to the last I chant the spell of living. In my belly I join the breath of life with the flame of becoming. I rise from the center of myself, fire on the wick, burning, tossing back shadows. Night drifts away like smoke.” (Ellis, 174). This kind of attention, this deepening, is inherent in the act of poetic expression.
Then, of course, there is the act of reading poetry, which is fundamentally important, especially for those who write themselves. I see a lot of poetry highlighted in the Pagan blogosphere (most especially around Imbolc with the annual Brigid Silent Poetry Reading), and this is because we recognize the significance of reading and sharing poetry that inspires. In working towards the continued cultivation of Pagan culture, I believe it is critical to support and share the work of poets and other literary artists who are dealing specifically with themes of devotion, esoterica, and magickal practice (via collections like Datura as well as opportunities such as the international poetry competition run by the Cambridge Centre for Western Esotericism). Art is the fruit of religion and spirituality, and in the spirit of knowing things by their fruits, the arts of Paganism and occultism function as evidence of the deep and challenging paths we walk on as worshipers and practitioners. My goal in creating Datura was to highlight a collection of poems that speak to the hidden and rapturous nature of our work as Pagans and occultists as well as essays that explore various aspects of poetry in our communities, and in doing so provide inspiration to those seeking an understanding of the paths we walk as practitioners, to those who practice themselves as they deepen their study, to other writers and poets in these communities as they undertake the Work inherent in the writing process, and to those who simply grok Beauty in its myriad forms. It’s especially thrilling to work with Peter and Alkistis at Scarlet Imprint, as their commitment to the exquisite art of fine bookbinding makes Datura art enfolded in art.
Friends, as National Poetry Month unfolds and the rosebushes grow, I wish you a season filled with the rapture of good words and the celebration of art! Why is April the season of poetry? Because poetry is the flower of human experience. May you count a zillion hyacinths and hear a thousand poems that move you.
Grok poetry, Pagani! Pray without ceasing.