Can you really blame the gods who saw what humanity had become and chose to just wipe the slate clean, start anew? Perhaps when Ra or YHWH or Zeus looked down upon an earth crawling with mortals they saw not present vices but future crimes; not idolatry and rebellion but nuclear war, global warming, and the creeping, inevitable extinction of every beautiful species they themselves created. Maybe the gods saw all that shit and thought nope, gotta get these guys the fuck outta here. Tell me, and be honest now, can you say with perfect certainty that you would not have done the same, had you been in their position? Or would you also send a worldflood or hungry war goddess to handle the situation in your stead? For the bees I might have. For the bees and ice caps and rainforests.
Inanna comes to me as the Whore of Babylon, naked as the dawn with golden goblet of wine in hand. In her wake she leaves a trail of red footprints from the battlefield where she danced on her enemies’ corpses, men who thought her pendulous breasts and round hips were theirs to covet. Plump ruby lips pull back from grinning white teeth as she leans down to spear and hold my meek gaze with her gleaming starlight eyes. You owe them nothing, child, she pronounces in a voice which shakes all of existence from heavens to underworld, not gender, not desire, not beauty. You don’t owe them answers or obedience, please or thank you, respectability or humility. The goddess straightens, taking a long drink from the goblet, then licks wine off her lips like a lioness cleaning blood from her fur. She fixes me with her hard stare once more and points at me with her free hand as she adds, And you sure as fuck don’t owe them silence. Go loud.
In my dream I crush spell ingredients against my palms, selenite and lavender and something gritty like sand or charcoal, while behind me a friend whispers sacred words and rubs herbs into the skin at the base of my neck. I look up into the blue dome of the sky where a bright full moon hangs and begin to pray. As I do, a woman appears in the sky beneath the moon, her voluptuous body and flowing robes all rich shades of green; at the same time, above the moon appears the planet Saturn, as close and vibrant as the moon itself. I raise my hands, palms pressed together, and cry out to this glorious vision of Gaia who smiles down at me: Please, give me control of my dreams again, take away my fear, help me be strong! The goddess spreads her arms wide and I’m enveloped in a violet aura of holy energy, the music of birdsong filling my ears as the blessing swirls around me. When it dissipates I’m left shaking with adrenaline and awe.
like a maiden plucking flower petals, so idly did She cast her raiment off
striding naked into the pit of the underworld, proud head held high
to welcome Her death with a queen’s grace, arms wide and eyes alight
Devotion quarried the stones and raised the temples
carved the statues and gilded the icons.
Devotion preserved the myths and protected the tombs
dusted off the altars and restored the artwork.
Devotion carried their gods around the world
and devotion carries them into the future.
My fifth zine is now available! Worship the Monsteresses is dedicated to the monsteresses and maligned women of mythology. It explores what we can learn from their stories by tapping into the ugly parts inside us all. This zine features 22 pages of my original prose, poetry, and hand-drawn art.
PDF copies are free; physical copies are $5 plus shipping. Check it out at my Kofi!
Worship the monstresses, girl;
they are hungry and fathomless.
Feed your rage to Ammit.
Feed your sorrow to Medusa.
Feed your terror to Charybdis.
Lay your howling at the altar of the Nameless
and let her fill you with the cold vacuum of the void.
Worship the beast queens, girl;
they will teach you to devour your oppressors.
in my dreams
I slit the throats of abusive fathers
my nails sharp as harpy talons
I drag rapists into the streets by their hair
smash their skulls with a silver hammer
I ride laughing through dark woods
on the back of a great goat
I fear nothing
and no one
in my dreams
What newborn pup could tell
sweet milk from sour
fresh meat from rotten?
I, too, long
to bite the hand that fed me
knowing what I know now.
The solstice approaches and I consider the death of gods. I think of Inanna walking proudly through the underworld’s seven gates to her death on the meat hook, of Odin hanging nine days dead on the world tree and Christ laying three days dead in the tomb. I think of Osiris, Persephone, Proserpina, Dumuzi, Baldr. Of Aphrodite weeping over Adonis and Achilles weeping over Patroclus.
And then there is you, Lord Sun, fairest and most beloved. The solstice approaches, yet you do not drown me in dreams of blood or deafen me with your cacophonous wailing like past years. Your halls are silent, your rooms are empty, and I wonder why. Could it be that you go willingly to your death this time? Have you made some sort of peace with it like those other harvest gods destined for the slaughter, those deities who sacrificed themselves for wisdom or were punished for being too beautiful, too good?
Perhaps this solstice you will bow willingly to you fate, to the dying and the decay, the rot and the long rest. The wheel on which the world turns must be oiled in blood. Yet though the solstice relies on violence, that violence need not be fueled by hatred or ugliness. Death can be beautiful, a gift of mercy or love, and your death on the longest night drives the resurrection of your brother-lover and the fallow time of winter. Thus the Oak King bleeding out in his Holly King’s arms; thus you, Lord Sun, spilling out your shining golden blood in your beloved Moon’s arms.
Maybe this time we can focus on the beauty in your death, not the tragedy. What do you think?
look into my eyes;
how can you not see I am
Alexandria’s charred skeleton
Delphi’s discard, Pompeii’s corpse-hollows
a husk of a revenant vomiting
endless bean sí grief-wail?
HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE I AM
A THING ALREADY DEAD?
I think perhaps
I am as much a woman as
Scylla with her many serpent heads
Charybdis with her churning waters
Ammit with her long crocodile jaws
all bloody from chewing rotten hearts
which is to say
I’m like that myth about the sculptor who so loved the woman he sculpted from marble that the gods granted her life – only the opposite. I’m not stone becoming human, I’m human becoming stone; and as my flesh grows cold and hard I fear your love too will diminish instead of grow. Perhaps in this version of the tale it was a divine punishment, not a blessing, which set these events in motion. Did I so offend some goddess of love that she would curse me to never experience the kind of desire one expects from their beloved? Is it justice, this lacking which alienates me from the rest of humanity? I would not wish this affliction on anyone, so perhaps this is indeed a retribution I deserve.
I am the darkness in the garden. I am the stuff from which world serpents are made and the soil in which world trees are planted. I am the womb of the underworld into which Inanna descended to die and be reborn. I am pomegranate seeds and forbidden fruit. I am the river and the boat and the ferryman’s coins. I am the core of every myth, the ending and the beginning, Alpha and Omega and Armageddon.
The phoenix is lucky;
Fire is the easy way out.
I want to transform as well,
Rise out of my ashes,
But I must use my teeth and nails
And I make such a bloody mess.
The Nameless is the vastness of the ocean. She is dark trenches full of strange creatures with eyes like pale globes; she is sunken ships buried in pelagic sediment; she is things thought long dead and things never before glimpsed in the light of day. She is the horizon extending unbroken in all directions. She is vanished airplanes and flying ghost ships and cities lost to wrathful waves.
The Nameless is the vastness of space. She is the bright points of Inanna’s morning star and the sharp blade of Artemis’ crescent moon. She is the void’s absolute absence of light or life. She is the incomprehensible enormity of supermassive blackholes; she is the unstoppable destruction of solar storms and hypernovae. She is fire from the sky, the longest night, the dusty river of the Milky Way.
The Nameless is the vastness of the grave. She is rot and mold and fresh-turned earth. She is catacombs, crypts, pyramids, pyres. She is stone so softened by a millennia of rain that the name it bears is lost to time. She is the banshee’s wail, the grim’s red stare, the braying horns of the Wild Hunt. She is the feather and scales, and she is the jaws of Ammit waiting to devour the heavy heart.
Some say revenge is a dish best served cold. Others say the best revenge is a life well lived. These claims, however, are in actuality both quite inadequate. I have taken revenge countless times, in every manner possible and with every kind of weapon, and I therefore can state with confidence that the most satisfying revenge is intimate. A razor to the throat; a blade to the breast; a knife to the back. The sort of sharp, bloody end most fitting for traitors and cowards, those whose betrayal has cut you to your very core. You want to hold your victim in your arms so you feel the moment his strength finally fails. You want to hear the blood bubbling in his throat as he struggles to breathe. You want to hold his gaze as he dies so in his final moment he knows you did not forget and will not forgive. It is like a dance, two partners entwined, heartbeat to heartbeat, and then the knife. It always ends with the knife.
You ask why the Moon killed the Sun but never why the resurrected Sun in turn killed the Moon. Did he really do so to restore balance to the world, as the story says? To complete the cycle of sacrifice and usher in glorious summer? Perhaps. It gives a nice symmetry to the mythology, doesn’t it? Death for life and life for death. But maybe that’s just the fairy tale version where everything has a purpose and everyone a happy ending. Maybe that’s nothing more than a lovely lie.
Maybe the truth is that the Sun killed the Moon simply for the sweet satisfaction of revenge.
drag me like a tiny ship into your chill black waters
shatter my hull, snap my decks, tear away my sails
I offer you my fear; drown it in the deep!
I offer you my hate; drown it in the deep!
I offer you my sorrow; drown it in the deep!
transform what remains of me into teeth and wrath
set my maelstrom heart free to devour the world
I am a vortex too, inside
Darkness. Then a voice.
Would you fall for me again, knowing how it all would end?
He recalls the reek of burning feathers, the bone-breaking impact.
He opens his eyes to see his lover’s outstretched hand. He clasps it and climbs up onto the ledge.
I am the many times great grandchild of cursed, damned Pandora. All my life I have witnessed the consequences of her thoughtless decision and yet all my life I have repeated her mistake as if it runs so strongly through my veins that it moves my body of its own accord. There is a sweet music that plays when the lid of my own box is opened, you see, and sometimes I am sorely tempted to pull back the lid so others can hear it as well. The problem is that I’ve stuffed so much into my box with the intention of locking it all away that when I do crack open the lid, even the tiniest bit, anything might come spilling out. Anger, fear, depression, anxiety, cruelty, grudges, sorrow, grief, mania, jealousy, apathy, shame, any of them could break free if I’m not careful. The music my box plays is beautiful but is it worth the worry that what escapes might hurt someone I love? Is it worth the chance that someone might see all of me and not just the parts I’ve tamed and made presentable? Every time I start to open my box just a crack I think of poor Pandora and I slam shut the lid again. She had no idea what she might unleash, opening that box, but I do.
You know, I almost hope unicorns don’t exist. Dragons, too, and fairies and gryphons and harpies, the grim and the sphinx, even ol’ Nessie; all those mythical creatures so rare and beautiful. I hope they’re not real, or at least that they’re long gone by now. That sounds terrible, I know, but think about the shape our world’s in. Do you want such fantastical symbols to exist on an earth we’re running to ruin? I’m not sure I could handle that; it might just be the very last straw. Imagine unicorns treading daintily over cracked concrete with plastic bags tangled around their shining hooves! Imagine kelpies coated in oil, their organs full of microplastics and chemicals! If our trash has made its way to the very farthest depths of the oceans, even onto the moon itself, then where can these legendary creatures possibly hide to escape our touch? Sure, some of them might survive in a polluted landscape – banshees, goblins, other assorted spooks – but not many. And anyway, even a banshee deserves a nice lonely moor to haunt, not some drained and cultivated piece of land with condos sitting on top. It would just suck, is all I’m saying, if we had such magical creatures in our midst and dragged them down with us. If all those unbelievable beings do exist, I hope they can at least get the hell out of here while the getting’s good.
I would eat groves of pomegranates if by their seeds I could be cursed to remain in your kingdom of death forever. I would eat them until my teeth stained red and my fingers yellow, until that bitter juice so infused every cell in my body that I could not pass through to the realm of the living if I so desired. Come try your hand, o lofty gods, come make an attempt o you angels and demons! I would be so tainted that all the powers in the universe could not drag me from your cold realm. Every bite would win me another year until I had swallowed down a victorious eternity of darkness with you. And there I would stay, no need to name me queen – I am content merely to remain by your side.
the earth is on fire and also underwater and i’m trying to embrace this whole apocalypse thing since that seems like the only way to stay sane here in the end times but it’s hard, you know, i’m feeling more and more like crazy cuckoo crackpot cassandra every day or like i’m the only person in pompeii who looked up and thought hey, the mountain’s sure acting weird this week, and if i don’t provide a viable solution to my fear-mongering that’s only because i really don’t think there is one, at least not at this point, not this far down the dead-end road, but hey at least i’ve got some really good news for people who love bad news
I’ve been wondering what the Morrigan has planned for me, or more specifically what she wants from me in the long term. I dreamed I oathbound myself to her, after all, but that’s a big step to take with a goddess I just “met”. Last night I came across someone offering free divination readings and thought a reading from a totally unconnected and unbiased party might give me some interesting insight. I considered asking the person, “What does the Morrigan want from me?” but in the end decided to just have them pull a random card. Lo and behold, they drew a card which answered my unvoiced question anyway – a phoenix rising up in brilliant flames. Be reborn, the card urged. Great change is coming, burn your old self to the ground and burst forth from your ashes free of the shackles of your past! The Morrigan speaks to me in crows and woodpeckers and now the immortal phoenix. All signs point to Big Plans… but am I ready?
These days I spend most of my time fantasizing about becoming a monster. Charybdis or Medusa, banshee or werewolf, siren or harpy, I don’t really care; just give me teeth and claws and I’ll supply the rage. I’ve got so much madness bottled up inside that I’m surprised I can’t turn people to stone with a glance already. I long to shed this soft, squishy layer of human skin and unveil the armored exoskeleton beneath. Make me six-headed Scylla and I will devour fleets of ships! Make me gifted Arachne and I will weave traps strong as spiders’ silk! Make me ravenous Ammit and I will tear the hearts of the unworthy to pieces! Come, goddess or witch, reshape this flimsy mortal form so I may be daughter of monsters and mother of beasts!
Sometimes I am Scylla and sometimes I am Charybdis and sometimes I am the thin strip of safe water between them with teeth snapping on one side and vortex gaping on the other but most days I just hope I survive, it doesn’t much matter how, and I often wonder what it would be like to be a monster so hideous and fierce that everyone avoids you, so insatiable you become synonymous with certain death, and it occurs to me that I don’t think I’d mind trading my humanity for the ability to swallow down the world until either it left me alone or there was nothing left in it to eat, that’s a pretty sweet deal if you ask me, so uh do I submit an application or do I need to get myself cursed by a witch or what?
Do you think I wanted to be this way? she longs to scream. That I was made like this, with a rotting heart?
She remembers the beginning like it were yesterday and not a thousand thousand years ago: the white marble city sparkling on the edge of the primordial sea, the islands made of leviathan jaw bones, the newborn sun warming sand and water and immortal flesh alike. She remembers the weight of wings and the weightlessness of flying, soaring on lazy thermals through the eternal summer day. Her skin remembers gold and jewels and silk, her tongue ambrosia and honeyed wine, her ears the harmonious blend of laughter, music, and the susurrus of waves. Yet when she returns to those memories, painful though they may be, she most often chooses to remember the companions she once knew, those she danced with in the sky and those she lay with in the sea foam. Soft lips and sweet kisses on the sandy shore, open arms and hearts in the cool marble halls; love was so uncomplicated then. She was so uncomplicated then. She does not pine for home, but she does pine for those she left there.
Monsters are not born from flesh and bone, she wants to say, but won’t. They are born from betrayal and desperation. Remember that, because what was done to me can be done to you.
here is your trident and here is your scepter
“Miss Draye,” the captain removed his hat politely as he approached the group of women clustered on deck, “I must ask you ladies to stay below for your own safety. The deck of a ship in battle is no place for a woman.” Victoria Draye, bravest and boldest of the young women traveling on the Valiant, pursed her lips and took a step forward to place herself between the captain and the girls.
“I truly appreciate your concern, Captain,” she offered, gesturing out to the ships gathered round their own like vultures, “but it seems you are vastly outnumbered with little hope of victory. We will not sit idly by and wait for our capture; we will succeed in defending our lives in combat or take them beyond the reach of our captors. Now,” she gestured impatiently with the hand not holding her pistol, “have you firearms for my companions or not?”
here is your charm to lure the men closer
“Be brave, my friends,” Victoria handed each girl a borrowed pistol, locking eyes with each for a second of camaraderie and comfort. Some took the proffered weapon stoically, others with much hesitance. She showed them how to load and fire, then pointed out to the circling ships trading cannon fire with the Valiant. “Remember, these are not normal privateers, and if this ship is taken we shall not be freed or ransomed. The fate that awaits us is much, much worse, and it is better to die defending ourselves than to be captured. Do you understand what must be done?” One by one, the girls nodded assent and readied their guns.
here is your kingdom of water and death
“Little girl, you had better set down that pistol or you’ll bleed all over that pretty dress,” The enemy captain, just moments ago congratulating himself on an easy prize, was quickly growing irritated by the young women clustered at the side of the Valiant’s deck. Each held a pistol to ward off the pirates, though clearly only the ringleader knew how to handle one. Still, none of his men would risk a possible lucky shot when they knew the ladies were their’s already.
“If you insist, then I suppose I must obey,” Victoria feigned regret as she carefully placed her pistol on the deck between them. As she rose, she stepped quickly backward to come in line with the other girls, scooping up a small cannonball as she went. Together, as if they had rehearsed it a hundred times, the girls moved back and sat upon the railing. Victoria climbed onto the railing itself, light as a gull. “We shall not be coming with you, though” she said, and before any of the men could move the girls had shot themselves, their bodies falling back into the cold water below. Victoria lifted her chin, stared down the captain, and stepped off into nothing.
here is your vengeance in immortal myth
James struggled to row the launch on his own, though he was still grateful the captain had loaned it without question. Most of the crew knew only bits and pieces of his mad quest, but he had had to tell the entire story to the captain in order to explain why he wanted to go alone. In the distance the ship’s lanterns bobbed and swayed, a comforting presence; besides the gleam of starlight, the tiny launch sat in darkness. James took a deep breath to steady his nerves, then called out softly, “Victoria? …Tori?”
here is your trident and here is your scepter
here is your charm to lure the men closer
here is your kingdom of water and death
here is your vengeance in immortal myth
The water around the launch began to foam and roil. James grasped the sides, searching for the source of the disturbance. Something approached, something from deep in the water…
“Jamey? My little Jamey James, is that you? My, how you’ve grown!”
James spun around. His sister rested her elbows on the edge of the launch, floating as calmly and prettily in the icy water as any sea creature. She looked just as he remembered, though her skin was a pale gray and her dark hair hung in wet strands. He thought something seemed… off… about her torso, too, as if it were much longer than it should be, and her pupils took up far too much of her eyes. Her teeth, too – were they always that sharp?
“Sis…” James let out the breath he had been holding as all around the boat girls rose smiling from the water, all lovely and strange as his sister. He wiped away sudden tears and took his sister’s cold, webbed hand in his own. “How I’ve missed you!”
“Finding him won’t change anything.”
verb; gerund or present participle: finding
- discover or perceive by chance or unexpectedly.
- recognize or discover (something) to be present.
- (of a thing) reach or arrive at, either of its own accord or without the human agent being known.
reach the understanding or conscience of (someone).
Okay, I get it; I’m asking too many questions. I need to back down. I need to shut up. I need to be thankful for what I know and stop asking for more. Let some truths lie. Accept the unknown unknown.
The apple. The pomegranate. His hand.
Chest to chest, hip to hip as if one heartbeat, as if one breath
(step, turn, step)
hand to the small of the back and fingers trailing over stiff linen
(step, turn, dip)
and then the bite of the blade, too sharp to even hurt
(step, turn, step)
red drops on white carpet, rose petal wrists
(step, turn, step)
arm sliding around narrow waist, mouths bruising
then the blade to bare throat with merciful speed
and gentle hands amid the red river
lay him down.