by Jim Wise (aka Calamus)
Sing to me Muse
a song of myself,
that I may remember
may sing true
I remember the first time I saw Loki,
because it was the day I first fell in love.
His titan father had sent him to foster with Great Zeus,
to give him the experience of life among the radiant ones.
Radiant ones. Even as I write the words,
I feel an old rage welling up. The petty,
petulant radiant ones, forever meddling,
forever conniving, forever wallowing in
self-indulgent childishness. Of course I knew
nothing of that at the time. I knew only that
I was my father’s favorite, and that the worlds were mine.
The day was warm, a breeze blowing off the Great Sea,
gulls hunting the waves. I was naked but for a loincloth,
my crane-skin bag slung over shoulder, holding everything
precious to me: my stylus and ink-jar, a bound book of
parchment for the scribblings of an adolescent poet,
a few talismans that bore the marks of my first stumbling
attempts at magic, and my weirding stones. I was not quite
the immortal man I was to become. My long hair, dark and
falling in loose curls over my shoulder, a shell talisman around
my neck, I bore more of my mother than my father. Maia was
a Nymph, earth to Zeus’ sky, and I was earth. My feet,
stained a permanent green, lusted for grass and wet sucking soil.
I was most at home in those days, as now, in the deep places
of the forest, and in caves that my mother called the womb of
She Who Was First.
I saw the ship, firesails moving in the breeze,
and hurried to meet my new foster-brother. I was raised
alongside the Sun and Moon, but I had not seen beauty
until that moment. Lean build, auburn hair falling straight
over his face, veiling eyes shining with fire, his face broken
in a smile. Even now, it is his smile that I most remember.
That I most miss.
For some time I had begged Father to let me go off
exploring through the worlds. I wanted to rely on myself
and my magick, taking only what I could carry and trusting
Gaia to supply my needs. Father agreed, provided I not go
alone. Loki. Although he had been with us a short time, he
had charmed everyone. Even Father warmed to him. And I
believe Zeus was happy to see something of himself in me –
a weakness for pretty boys who wore their wildness on their skin.
We set off at dawn. My father came to send us off with blessing.
He gave me a staff. Not the serpent-hugging kerykeon that I would
later carry as his voice in the worlds, but a plain staff of ash,
shoulder-high, stout, straight, and strong. Loki and I set off, packs
on our shoulders, ready to backpack the worlds.
We walked by day, though fiery heat and misty cold hells,
and slept each night wrapped together in love. I carved
what magick I knew into the wood of the staff and sang power
into it each evening while Loki hunted and cooked a simple meal.
Before sleep each night, I wrote of the day’s events, things seen,
men and giants we had met along the Roads.
Love grew. In the cold places, we made our own heat. I would
stare into those intelligent eyes, my hair falling over our faces,
and climb inside my god. I gave him all my memories, and
swallowed all of his, digesting him into my own body. I wanted
us to become one person, to melt into one another and be whole.
I was happy then. Life was so simple, and we were so pure.
No anger, no rage, no betrayal – all of that was yet to come,
aeons in the future. We were lovers, together. In some worlds,
we were the only two living beings. Every sound seemed a sacrilege
to me, until Loki would laugh, breaking the spell. I never wanted
it to end.
In one world, while walking a forest, we spied a hovel,
an old woman in front, a raven perched on her shoulder.
She seemed to be talking to herself. Or the raven.
Or some unseen guest. I was intrigued and strode to meet
her. Seeing us she said, Welcome, young Magus, son of the High One.
And Loki of the Fire People. What do you here at an old woman’s
house on such a lonely day as this?
Simple travelers, Madam, but I wonder how you knew to name your guests.
I am a seer, young Hermes of the Swift Foot, and saw you coming
long before you walked this Road. Let us eat together and I will tell
you what must be in the ages to come. For I see many things
that even gods may not have seen in this Cauldron that I stir.
By all means, good Lady, we will share your table and hear
your tales. I have great respect for Oracles and would hear
all that you would tell.
We dined on cabbage and watered ale and settled in
to hear the volva speak.
I am haunted by dreams of fire, young son of God. I see
the Earth consumed in flames and hear the screams of
the dying. I see a time when deluded priests will learn the songs
that wake the sleeping demon Surt, and he will call down
death on all that is. He who is Fire will embrace the Mother
and she will not survive the touch.
How can this be, old woman, and yet my heart tells me
that you speak the truth. Can nothing stop the raging fire?
Strong folk can oppose the priests, and sing stronger songs,
but how can such songs be learned in the brief lives of men?
One day you will be the Guide to lead the fallen into the Halls
of the Dead, where all must stay awhile. Dream for a way,
young god, dream for a way to save the Mother of us all.
I will find a way, Great Seer. I will build a house within the Halls
of the Dead, and I will choose such men and women who have the
heart and skill to fight this foe. I will teach them there to fight –
with skill and magick and might, and they will be the army to stand
against this foe on the dreadful day of doom. I will be the fury that
drives them into dreams, inspires them into deeds. I will be the Wod
that pounds within their hearts. I swear on my Mother’s name,
I will save the Earth from apocalypse.
We left at morning, my mind reeling with the burden of what
had been revealed. Loki tried to comfort me: You are my inspiration,
my Hermes, my Fury, my Woden, the flint that kindles my flame.
I will never leave you, you will never be alone. This burden
I will share. We will stand before the Fire and will not be overcome.
So young then, before the love had turned to hate,
before the bitter taste of betrayal filled our mouths
with bile. Only great love can turn to such a great hate.
Now I am called Odin.
Now I gather the fallen. Now I prepare for the day. I walk the
worlds still, guiding my chosen to wisdom and purpose.
I am alone, last of the Olympians, wishing for the feel
of Loki’s touch, the sound of his laughter, one last time
before the end of all things.