Mother of mountain-revels
old woman of trees and moss
and wet black soil
that nourishes the mushroom of flame,
food of ravens,
with face like a mountain lion,
with hands bloody from august sacrifices
cradled the mad little god and sung
strange songs to soothe the frenzy
that had seized his mind,
ripped it up,
and scattered the remnants to the winds.
Oh, how he suffered,
this one who sought only to bring joy
to the careworn hearts of mortals everywhere.
like you cannot even imagine.
Until one black, mournful night
the burden of being fully man and fully god overwhelmed him.
No longer could he stand having his heart constantly crushed
to fill the cup in the feast of the Bride
– it all was too great, too mythic for him.
The weight of the tragic mask was too heavy for him.
And so that night he staggered from the garden
full of roses and thorns,
leaving his drunk and noisy companions behind.
He’d begged them to stay up with him,
to sit through the long hours of the night
telling stories til the cock crows thrice
… all promised, and all betrayed him,
seduced by the dream-weaving kisses of death’s brother.
He wandered alone through the desolate wastes,
wandered ever a stranger in increasingly strange lands
until he came upon an oasis in the darkness.
A bubbling stream fed from below,
a well with a white snake at the bottom,
a crow that does not look away, two cups
– one with white and one with red liquid inside
and both marked “Drink me!” –
a single pale cypress, leaves swaying
without a breeze.
He drank both cups at once,
drew the snake from the well,
and used it to hang himself from the osseous cypress.
As the world receded
he looked down
and saw his reflection in the well.
Then he fell, fell, fell …
Into the arms of the maenadic matron of the dance-loving nymphs.
She who is old, old, old
and cold, cold, cold
though deep inside the black walls of her body
flows the molten stuff of life,
the lava that turns larvae into glorious actors on life’s stage.
slow and steady like the exploring hands of a new lover,
then faster, frenzied, furious with life
like the drums beaten with the bloodied palms
of the ecstatic, mystic, entranced, pain-loving galli,
Lost Boys forever fancy free with Wendy their Queen
in a land that never was, but always is.
And with each breath, each story
she draws him up, up, up
inch by slow inch up from the depths
like the fair flowers of spring
and the fat red grapes that swing
from the hands of a snake-draped, ivy-crowned mad-woman
as she laughs and hunts in the night
for the fawn, star-speckled and lovely
as it frôlements in the wood.
She wants to hug it more than anything else,
nurture it, feed it with milk of her own human breast
though her own child is forgot at home,
love it with all the fire in her heart,
taste every delicious bit of it.
Wait. Where did the fawn go? Where did all this blood come from?
Why am I so hungry?
And he smiles. That’s the woman for me!
Rheia sets the child down, restored to himself.
Pats his apple bottom
and sends him out to play in the world,
to chase all of its mad pleasures.
And she’ll be here like always to patch him up when he catches them.
For that is Grandmother Spider’s way.
Song for Kybele
by Amanda Artemisia Forrester
On this, Kybele’s holy day
Worshipers gather in the dark
The drums pound out a deepening sound
Firelight flickers, casting an eerie glow
The priestess dances
Feet never touching the ground
Her long hair swirls around her face
A halo, a crown, a black fog
She spins and spins, in her own world
Delirious and ecstatic
Drunk on Divinity
The people chant, the people pray
They cry out to Kybele, the Mountain Mother
Rhea of the Phrygians
Chanting Her ancient names
The priestess continues to dance
Her skirts flying
Her body perpetually in motion
She embodies the wildness of her Mother’s realm
The grace of the lioness
And killer instinct
Reflected in hard muscle.
Rheia-Kybele, Mother of the Gods,
Mistress of the Wild,
And the approves.
The drums pound.
And the priestess dances.
The earth itself we honor,
broad-bosomed sustainer of all, Ge,
the common mother of Gods and men alike.
From deep within her issue forth
the prophetic gasses that enable Apollon to speak
through his chosen vessel.
She who owned the oracle first,
at a time so far back that even the elder Gods only dimly recall it.
I sing of the many-named mountain mother,
unique and august goddess who is like no other.
You who delight in the frenzied drums of your womanly priests,
and keep company with the proud lions and the wild beasts.
Oldest of gods who taught the infant Zeus to dance,
and healed raving Bacchus of his terrible madness.
Yours are the torches that light our way,
and the purifying bulls’ blood that sprays.
You make the earth fertile with your mystic rites,
so that we never tire of singing your praises by day or by night.
Lady of tree-covered Ida, city-crowned Kybele, and Mistress Dindymene.
accept this song, I pray, o bountiful and blessed Queen.
The Mountain Mother Rheia I sing,
who delights in drums and lions,
she who is called the Mother of Gods and men,
an ancient and revered Goddess.
Broad-bosomed and sustaining life,
every blessing we have, we have through her
and those whom she bore.