A chance conversation on the 8th March reminded me again of something I had been stirred into writing after the last Glastonbury Goddess Conference where the maiden in us and the maidens among us were being lauded and applauded – yet something deep inside my soul, a kind of susurration, a frisson of discomfort, was rising to voice something then inarticulate. I went home after the Conference, the puzzle still on the threshold of consciousness – you know that odd feeling you get when you know you know something – but actually can’t put words to what it is? Well, I woke the following morning and followed the thought until it ran all the way home. It was ME I was sounding. The story unfolded just like this:
Once upon a time the wild maiden danced free and bright over the pathways of the dark hollows following the damp tracks of badger, hedgehog, fox and vole. For the longest time she walked, until she walked right into the fire and the fear; a fugitive, forgetting her future as she lost her past. Fire burnt her motherboard; fear short-circuited her software – and she forgot. Hundreds of years walled up against her and she lost her voice.
In our time we began to hear again those still small whisperings; sounds once clear, now soft and silent as thistledown in the wind. We are women. The time has come to re-awaken our lost voices, to re-vision the long darkness. We move, stiffly, uncertain. These last fifty years have seen such changes as would make the angels weep – and we hear the lost chords and the long rivers of song that once moved in our blood, through our cells, through our bones, through the stones and the wells and rising flood of Mnemosyne. Memory. We begin to re-member, to put together again, all that we thought was lost.
Tentative, we slough off the centuries and reclaim our soulskins, shimmer with new life and thrill to the wild ripples of ancient voices old, yet so familiar, sounding through our veins:
He says that woman speaks with Nature
That she hears voices from under the earth
That the wind blows in her ears
And the trees whisper to her.
That the dead sing through her mouth
And the cries of infant hearts are clear to her.
But for him this dialogue has gone.
He says he is not part of this earth.
That he was set on this world as a stranger.
He sets himself apart from Woman and Nature.
And so it is Goldilocks who goes to the Three Bears,
Little Red Riding Hood who converses with the Wolf,
Dorothy who befriends a Lion,
Snow White who talks to the Birds,
Cinderella with Mice as her allies,
The Little Mermaid who is half Fish
And Thumbelina carried to Paradise on the back of a Swallow.
And he says he cannot hear.
So when we hear in the Navajo chant
That a grown man sits and smokes with Bears
And listens to instructions given to him by Squirrels,
We are surprised.
We had been told
only little girls spoke with animals.
We are the birds, the bird’s eggs;
We are flowers and fox,
We are eagle, doe and dingo too.
We are cats and caterpillars.
River flow and tidal ebb
We are the weavers, womb and web.
We are the shining of the stars that sing,
Snakes that glide down mountainside,
Milk that gives you birth
We are of Mother Earth.
We are Women.
And he says he cannot hear us speak.
But we hear, we hear, we hear, we hear,
We are Women.
And so when I see the young maidens at the thirteenth Goddess Conference and I hear the wistful whisperings of the crones admiring their youth and their beauty, a voice, a lone crone voice, stirs from my depths and whispers: it is we, the older ones, the wrinkled ones, the braver ones who are worthy of crone admiration. We must own it. Look at us. Look at the baggage we have carried for centuries. Look at the baggage we have shed for everywoman and everyman in the past fifty years. We have moved mountains, crossed cultural chasms, cruised community censorship, sailed beyond society’s straitjackets, been spat at by sisters of patriarchal persuasion, laughed at, imprisoned, rejected, shunned by family – because we are the ones who cried Yes! to the moon; Yes! to the wild spirit stirring our solitude; Yes! to the crossroads and the lonely pathways; Yes! to the hare and the crow and Yes! to the wisdom of the hag and the crone. We are the sheroes.
We have made your burdens lighter, your path clearer, we have placed signposts along your way so that you, the beautiful young, can tread more fearlessly, carry your soulskins more lightly, re-member our lost voices and sing our soul songs back into being. We rejoice in your freedom, we delight in your beauty. Some of us lost our children in the fight for change that you may never lose yours; some of us will die in poverty from our struggle that you will know equality; and some of us will weep for such losses as you will never have to know. And we rejoice in your beauty and delight in your freedom.
May the Wild Maiden always dance in your heart as you grow old with all the years that we have known before you. For we are the women who remember.
©Zoé d'Ay, Glastonbury 2008