Herne

‘There is an old tale goes, that Herne the hunter,
Sometime a keeper here in Windsor forest,
Doth all the winter time at still midnight,
Walk around about an oak, with great ragg’d horns;
And there he blasts the tree, and takes the cattle;
And makes milch-kine yield blood, and shakes a chain
In a most hideous and dreadful manner.’

–‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’:  William Shakespeare

I.

White; through the woods

you stride —

toward and away —

Leaping

Flying

Living

Dying.

Fierce heart,

Antlers a crown

Eyes like fire

eyes like the ocean

eyes like the moon.

Feet silver as

the ripple of fish in the stream

Fleet one,

adored one,

majestic one:

Lover and friend.

I seek you in legend and lore:

Be with me now

and forever.

II.

A rustle.

Nothing more, but I froze

Hearing the forest whisper

Hearing the wind pray

Hearing the hawk scream.

The loam, the rotting leaves:

My nose burned with their damp incense,

Petals speckling the moss.

Here: hoofprints —

Cloven, sharp, filling slowly with water.

I knelt to drank,

Tasted him

Closed my eyes

listened

followed.

III.

I know that I hunt the god created.

The vision not celestial but terrestrial:

Man-born.

That makes him no less real.

In my nostrils, the reek of his shaggy head:

deer’s hide

autumn’s crisp bite,

shadows,

death.

White stag,

Antler-crowned,

The horned god.

Lord to the Lady.

Waiting for Samhain,

Waiting for the turn of the year,

the death of the season,

the new year.

Be my lover and be my god, they sing;

Be my lover, my lord.

IV.

You are not the only one who wears a crown of horns:

Mithras,

Pan,

Cernunnos.

The Christians name you Satan

and fear you.

I do not fear you.

Even your greatest gift,

The end, the all, the darkness,

Is only the continuation,

the consummation,

of the aging of the light,

the fading of the day.

White stag, white:

I see you in the moon,

row of cloud’s waves upon wave,

tide in, tide out, breakers roaring.

I see you in the snow,

ice-glazed, knife-sharp, slippery treason,

the crust of November’s lace gone old.

I see you in the lightning-flash,

fire-pale, angry, loud, bitter,

your voice roaring fury against the sky.

I see you in the bleached frame of barren bone:

ivory, voiceless and serene,

this, my fate, the fate of all, reduced from charnel reds

to the purity of dust.

O, hart of my heart,

Be my lover.

Ravish me

Ravage me

Savage me.

For I am savage,

Feral kin,

Fit and fitting,

Fit to you and fitted to you,

Engender in me

And in me be consumed.

V.

Yule, and again the wheel turns,

Dark to light,

Not day to night.

Swift, sure-footed,

Lead me, tease me, pursue me, please me,

Past Imbolc when the Lady’s fire awakens,

Bright to your darkness,

Life to your inevitable end,

End, as all things end,

In violence, sickness, or age,

And not against that end rage,

But even the light dies.

Why then, not I?

VI.

Within the woods.

The woods within.

In each of us, a forest grows:

deep, dark, stark —

A place of mysteries

of secrets

of madness

of majesty

of legend

of magic.

We find him there,

Waiting

Not patient

Waiting for the hunt

the chase

the race

the sound of the horn.

Wild, we run,

we hide

we fall

we die.

And in that darkness of death,

He is there still,

White stag, lord, horned one,

Part and parcel of that forest,

within and without,

And as He is there,

in the woods,

the woods within

so are we Him.

We are He.  Wild.  Free.

It is autumn again.

Run.

Run.

The hunt never ends.

The chase begins.

 

 

[Jennifer Lawrence likes the fey and the strange, which explains most of her friends. Her interests include gardening, herbalism, mythology and fairy tales, theology, Celtic music, role-playing games, horror movies, and the martial arts. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Aphelion, Jabberwocky 4, Cabinet Des Fees, Goblin Fruit, and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina anthology Unbound: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Artemis. She lives with her husband, her younger daughter, five cats, a dog, and a houseful of gargoyles somewhere near Chicago.]

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