I am the North and I am cold bent hands
As sunlit litter Falls from the sky

I am the East and I am the breath of warm winds
Blowing the smoke from her hair

I am the South and I am transfixed by the dancing flame
Until only the ashes of ghosts remain

I am the West and I am the ebb and flow
That builds the sandcastles and washes them away

Kalma – “Smell of the Corpse”

I am drawn, trancelike, into this relentless and bitter cold land of the North by the brilliant colors just stirring on the horizon. I watch the first sliver of the red Sun God cautiously peek at me through the tree skeletons. This is my time; the quiet and stillness of the dark as it is broken by the light. We have built Our Castle, My King and I, askew on this mountaintop for the sole purpose of allowing me to see those morning hues through our bedroom window. I have “bundled up,” as the old ladies say here, in layers of soft warm pinks and fur-trimmed winter whites. Have I told you I am not appearing in all black and grey these days? No? Yes, yes, I’ve discovered rose golds, light light teals and new feminine pastel shades of optimism. But my mittens are still all of the black variety and I’m too vain to make such a fashion faux pas even at this deserted hour and on this deserted land. I look down at my cold bent hands now tinged with blue. They are mine but they are old today, croney even. As I want for a steaming cup of tea to warm them, one appears on the crunchy white snow at my feet. As I bend to pick it up, I see it is not a cup and saucer I recognize, but a dainty porcelain set surely missing from someone else’s cabinet on this frozen morning. My hands warm and color immediately upon grasping this gift from some unknown but all-knowing goddess. As I nod my gratitude toward her, glittery snow begins to fall from the sky, backlit by the procession of this Sun God I am here to worship. He never seems to appear quickly enough for my liking, neither daily nor yearly. And yet some years and days, I miss him entirely in his haste. Or mine?

As I make my way to the East, headlong into the now-warming wind and toward the red-pink-orange Sun God face, I know the smoke from ancient wood stoves is finally being blown out of my greying curls. I’ve been haunted by that black smell of home for decades upon decades. I watch the snow quickly melt away and see greens and flowers come to life as I’m pulled, almost if by a magnet, toward a huge picnic spread upon a dusty Persian rug. Who is that white rabbit with a monocle and a pocket watch asking me for the time? His friend with the entirely-too-large hat is even weirder. I recognize the third guest as my usual Spirit Guide. She is in her usual raggedy rag of a nightie. Her greasy thin hair is in its usual bun. And, as usual, she won’t tell me her name. There is an open spot between her and Mr. Hat, so I sit. Their tea cups match mine. Serendipitous, as usual. They all ignore me as I remove some furry layers and my horned headpiece, but as soon as I am situated, the time-sensitive rabbit deals me into their card game. As I look at my hand, I see all the cards are boudoir photos of me. “Well, isn’t that special?” says my inner voice of shame that sounds exactly like Dana Carvey’s ​Saturday Night Live​ church lady. Are you making the face (yes, THAT face) too? We begin the next hand of this game they have surely made up and are surely not going to explain to me, and they start telling me nonsensical jokes and then maniacally laughing, almost falling over sometimes, at my stupidity. Or their stupidity. “What color is an orange?? Up!! Hahahaha!!” Oh, that’s a good one. “How many squirrels am I holding?? You can’t hold squirrels!! Hahahaha!!” On and on. I rub my forehead to prevent my brain from flying out, as I’m sure it wishes it could do. “Why do we give you a headache?? Because the Mayor says so!! Hahahaha!!” I keep my cards but abandon my tea cup and hastily extract myself from their odd party. They ignore me.

Looking toward the South, the arborvitae and lush summer vegetable gardens I expect to see are now dancing flames. The orchard of apple trees appear untouched, steady and strong as the long-dead matriarch of My King in whose honor they have been planted. We have needed her for every one of these more than 3,000 days she has been gone. As my analytical brain conjures up today’s date in hopes of calculating the actual number of those days, I am reminded it is almost the Day of the Groundhog, almost my birthday, almost the Feast of Brigid, almost Imbolc. I am reminded of my mortality and immortality. Under the heat of the now high SunGod, I move through the trees and toward the flames but I stop short as I see this Holy Mother sitting at a little table. She is no longer just a memory reduced to some trees, a box of buttons, and not enough photos. She is here in her sensible shoes, her “slacks,” and a Christmas sweater. Her table is set for two with pressed lace linens and fine china and all the forks. Barefoot in the grass, I cautiously move toward her, as the other seat is surely for me. All the times I’ve called on her spirit to hold and support my babies, I never thought I’d get the chance to chat with her again. And then out of the slowly dying flames walks my father. What is he doing here? He heads right over to her, kisses her cheek and takes MY seat. Well, there’s a motley looking pair. An extreme study in the spectrum of normalcy: the loveliest woman to have ever walked the earth and The Crazy Man. He has no idea what fork to use. I suppose since I’ve called on him as many times as I have called on her, they may have forged an afterlife bond in their quest to do my bidding, my haunting, my healing. With no room left at their table, I quietly slip away.

Where just this morning stood Our Castle, is now a vast clear blue sea, it’s sandy shore dotted by sand castles of all shapes and sizes. On the far horizon, the Sun God begins his descent. I kneel in the sand and begun to frantically dig the moat of an elaborate castle decorated with those drippy trees my grandfather taught us to make on the dirty beaches of the Jersey Shore so many swimming suits ago. I pull out a set of mala beads with a Mercury dime at the center and the red wooden rosary purchased for me by my Lutheran father off a table set up in the back of my Catholic Church. I close my eyes out of habit as I hold the mala beads as my new and improved inner voice begins the daily incantations of self-love I claim along the 108 beads. Loving that which I claim and that which I deny. But that rosary… I hold it up to my nose to smell the familiar scent of roses which has only lasted until today for lack of use. Then why have I carried it through so many lifetimes? Have I ever even prayed the rosary? Perhaps in a classroom in the church basement when some nice lady was trying to teach us the Proper Way to Speak to God. Glory be to the Father. Whose father? But I can get behind that Mary, full of Grace! Perhaps it’s my feminine divinity, but give me two sprigs of Grace over a heapin’ helpin’ of Glory any day. Silly Father, Glory. Eyeroll.

I abandon both the old dime of self-love and the smelly beads of glory and grace back to their castle of drippy trees and move toward the noisy group of Heathens dancing and drumming around the fire. From the group of clear and present chaos, emerges a boy-man with my father’s curls and my father’s laugh but the joyful spirit of a trickster fairy. Right behind him is a beautiful girl (aren’t we always still girls?) who looks like me but is not. She wears a badge and a gun and cocks an eyebrow like no other. My siblings and I sand walk to the fire as I immediately begin to recognize the others. Of course these are my Heathens, here to fully accept me into their clan as no one else in this weird ass vision has done. The blonde storytelling Sprite with the Oghams on her fingers is weaving a tale about a tea party with a rabbit as the others follow her chants of being late for a date. Medusa steps out of the circle and leads me to a chair made of sticks and cedar branches. With love in her eyes and magick ink wand in her hand, she etches the likeness of my Queen’s crown into my wrist. She bedazzles it with slate grey jewels and pink pearls. It is truly exquisite. My Norse Winter Goddess appears to my left, her antlers held high and her glowing sigils on display. Into my ear, she whispers ancient secrets only her and I understand. The Dark AstroWitch hands me a spherical crystal in a nest of black feathers. How did she know? Hecate puts a blackened key around my neck. In a honey dripping Southern accent, she assures me I know what to do with it. I do. I see my mother the Amazon Warrior, dressed in full battle gear, the sand flying at her feet as she skillfully spars with my Daughter of Dragons. My other daughter, Rán, and her husband, Aegir, are the obvious hosts of this party, filling chalices and mingling with trays of lavish delicacies. Rán blows me a kiss as the King of My Castle leads me away. In true clean-up-after-me fashion, he has a whole treasure chest filled with the things I’ve cast off on this journey and many journeys before. I lift Hecate’s key to unlock the box, but think better of it. Instead, I toss the key into the waves as they wash away those sandcastles and all the drippy trees. As we sit on the sand in the dark, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the red wooden rosary and the mala beads. He doesn’t need to tell me all I’ve ever needed, in all of my lifetimes, was Grace and Self-love. Oh, he gets me.

Cerne and The Goddess, by beauravn (Redbubble)