I woke in the dark, but there was such a cat-cophany early on what went on the page was a litany of cat complaints. It is never a good idea to try me first thing in the morning. It is never a good idea to try and make noise before I am two cups of caffeine into the day. House rules, guys! There was also the matter that I had a morning workshop at the open prison, based around Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. It’s always kind of rock and roll, you never know who will show up, or how many, or what sort of writing experience they will have, if any. I generally have about three different plans in my head.
When I got home I took the Old Dog for a little dander down the lane, which meant it was more like taking a toddler for a walk. We had to stop a lot for Ellie to sniff and limp along and have a little rest. Christina Baldwin’s quote “Move at the pace of guidance” popped into my head. Once inside, that collided with one from James Baldwin: “Nothing is stable under heaven.”
And so, the poem for today.
Who am I? Where am I? and What am I doing here?
I have been known to ask these questions while standing inert in my kitchen before the open door of my fridge.
What is lost? Where was it found? Who is it standing here on this ground?
"Nothing is stable..." (especially this thing called 'I') "under heaven" being where if not the ultimate why. Where is the here I lost track of myself?
So go tell it on the page. Give it some answers. Give it your rage. Ask some more questions.
Trace a path, line upon line. Let them roam open in every direction. Try east, west, north, south by process of elimination.
At some stage "under heaven" You'll find your internal compass. Your heart knows its true north. It bypasses every delusion.
"Move at the pace of guidance" heart and hand moving as one across the page, teaching a great patience. The page will become your piece of heaven, with signposts, a place of grace and balance.
I realised yesterday that I had got a little bit ahead of myself on the Hero’s Journey. But I woke up with the kernal of the poem for the hero’s return. Only when posting I realised there was a gap for the quest! But then, sometimes that is just how inspiration rolls. At any rate, today I am redressing that deficit to the tale of the hero’s journey.
What beast yelps while unborn, its mother unfound? That stalks the deer, while running the fox to ground?
Riddle a life. See the tooth marks leaving scars. What rides you more? Beast? Or quest? What's your pole star?
When does beast become the quest? It is not the cup you seek, but drink in Camelot.
Like snow falling when caught out knee deep, be careful! Do not be tempted to fall asleep.
That is the beast. It can lull. It's paw can sweep. Be on your guard. Do not risk falling asleep.
There are many slips before the grail can be put to your lips. What's your beast? What price booty?
What villainy or treachery can detour a sacred trust? Greed, envy, pride, rage, sloth, lust...
When does the beast consume the cup? Guzzling fire it will combust, body ash, its heart expired.
A quest is not a treasure chest for pirates. The quest begins, always ends, in God's pockets.
You would think it would be all triumphal on the hero’s return. But actually, this is a really tough stage of the hero’s journey. You go back to ‘sort of’ normal. Except nothing ever will be normal again. But you need to build a new normal.
You can never go home again once you have been away. It's just a bit scary to those who stayed. They don't know you anymore. They have not seen what you saw. They don't know what to say, do not wish to imagine what adventure's trials wrought.
Sometimes with luck there will be one who recognises the spark who shares your pluck who will then set sail with you to new horizons who will build you a home in both your hearts who is your return in hope and love.
The next phases of the Hero’s Journey involve meeting with a mentor – The Good Witch Glenda, Obi Wan Kanobe, Professor Dumbledore – before there are trials. It is well out of fashion now, although it still applies to some trades, but there used to be seven year apprenticeships. The etymology of apprentice reflects a legally binding agreement for a student to learn and the ‘master’ to teach a trade or craft. The old Latin root means ‘to take hold, grasp.’
We speak of ‘grasping the nettle’ and this leads on to the next phase, the road of trials. This is the initiatory phase of the hero’s or shero’s journey. They have the tools (or a trade or craft), but now they graft. And their craft is not in the service of self. A s/hero journeys in the service of the greater, collective good.
Seven years impressed, ready to shed a skin, slither out into the world a fully fledged magician.
Seven years at the feet of the learned teacher sat beneath a bodhi tree. Seven years of all of that, forged and founded, fighting the urge to flee. Seven years bonded, then anointed and set free
to journey on one's own path - even if this leads into the wilderness with all coming to nought. Being melted down to nothingness, being unwound and untaught. This hammers out some new shapes. Remade now, but not for it's own sake.
A tool is meant to be of service. To find one's purpose, the final task for any sorcerer and their apprentice.
Joseph Campbell’s stages of the hero’s journey has been stewing on the back burner of my brain. I have been asked to devise some poetry writing workshops for prisoners on that theme on the foot of the concert my husband devised and delivered just before Winter Solstice at our local open prison. It is, I have to admit, a useful framework to do exploratory writing on one’s autobiography and spiritual journey in life.
When one considers both the Journey and the Call to Adventure the zero tarot card fashioned as The Seeker in Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot deck certainly feels apt. In Ellen Lorenzi- Prince’s Dark Goddess Tarot the zero card is the Sheela-na-Gig, displaying her yoni as the great portal of beginnings and endings.
In traditional tarot decks, this is The Fool card or The Jester. The Wild Card.
So I suspect that over the next few days I am going to poke and prod at elements of the Hero’s Journey as I pace out the hows and wherefors of a couple workshops. As always, I explore the etymological roots of key words. The roots for the English word hero are a bit uncertain – demi-god, brave, illustrious. The definition seems to cover it, although it does seem rather phallo-centric. Well, we all know sheroes, those brave, demi-goddess women, too!
Adventure, however, is waiting for the arrival.
is not the one who liked the adreneline rush at the odds, who liked the shape of the caper.
No, the hero sensed it before it happened, knew the risks was just waiting for the call.
Picked it up, listened to the message, despite all answered and adventured.
Sometimes I surprise myself. I barely slept last night, kept awake after performing in a concert of story, song and poems on the stages of the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell wrote extensively on this mythic journey, which is hard-wired in the human psyche despite our modern habit of dispensing with the old wisdom. My husband, Tony Cuckson, wove personal anecdote into the evening to illustrate just how relevent that old wisdom is still today. Together with myself and two other heroes, we performed it before an audience of inmates at Loughan House Open Prison last night. I was still buzzing on the adreneline rush well into the wee hours of today.
Yet, here I am writing and tapping out this post in the pre-dawn ‘ambrosial hours.’ The writing of the Poetry Daily was calling me out of a sleep that was still rocking to the memory of Claire Maguire’s amazing singing voice.