October 31, 2004


There is an old woman in the woods, she
is wandering in her woollen skirt and stout shoes.
her walking stick, battered hat, cloak of oak
leaves, forest lichens and dried grasses,
her mane littered with leaf dust, feathers,
small acorns and the scarlet berries of the hawthorn,
cheeks withered as a frost touched apple, eyes
round and brown as the ripest hickory nuts,
twisted lean old hands that grip the stick.
She is the ancient one,
the silent one who stands in shadow,
seeing everything and bearing witness
to all that moves across this place, to all that comes,
the guardian of the crossroads, the goddess of the moon,
the one before the gate, the keeper of the keys,
the spirit of the windswept places,
the ruler of twilight, thresholds and liminal places,
Madonna of the Green Places, Old Wild Mother
Lady of the Elder Tree, Queen of the Night.
She stops, listening for the crackle of approaching winter,
for the icy wind that rattles the latch,
that dances in the eaves troughs,
that perches like a gargoyle on the roof
that howls down the chimney,
that rattles among the dry corn stalks,
that scours the dead leaves from the trees,
that harrows the land.

She pauses to hear the geese in their long flight,
the chatter of massed swallows on power lines,
the plaintive cry of loons bound for silent waters,
the wild ducks in formation flying south,

with blessings to each for a safe flight away,
a journey without peril, a return to this northern place
in spring bearing gifts of new life,
of warmth and song above the greening earth.
A dark time to be sure,
the sombre woodland without its choir of birds,
the bones of the land exposed and crowned by ragged trees,
the stillness of the rocky coves and hidden clearings,
the abandoned nests, the empty dens,
the silent beaver ponds.

She lifts her head to the waning moon and sings a tale,
of stark winter days and long bitter nights,
of sharp ice forming and fields deep in snow
of north winds blowing, of the touch of frost and fiery skies.

She sings too of warm barns and huddled sheep,
of lighted kitchen windows and blazing wood stoves,
of firelight and birch logs crackling in the grate.
She sings of peace at the journey's end;
She sings of resting in the arms of the Old Wild Mother;
She sings of new beginnings.
"Behold I come as a dark wind out of the North,
Ancient breeze, and the chill breath of change.
Crone and sister am I, harbinger of rebirth am I."