Look, I get it – I’m forgettable. It’s okay, really, it’s not like I’m trying to be memorable. I want the words to stick in your mind, not the person who recorded them. It’s just that these days if you want to sell something you create you have to sell yourself first. You gotta put yourself on display and win the masses’ affections before you win their interest. I don’t want to do that, though. I’m not a priestess dripping gold, I’m not an oracle tripping holiness, I’m just a scribe. I preserve; I don’t proclaim. I witness; I don’t wield authority. I was never meant for pomp and pageantry, that’s why I’m a scribe to the gods. Yet how else do I get people to listen to my words? I don’t need to be memorable, I don’t even need to be likable, but I need you to read my words. I need you to remember they exist if nothing else. So what do I have to do when the words aren’t enough to earn reader loyalty? Do I have to offer a pound of flesh along with them? An ounce of soul? Do I have to put on a pretty mask and play a part that isn’t mine just to get you to care about the words coming out its painted mouth?
My gods are living gods. They speak in dreams and divination, in blessings and curses, in all the tongues of man.
My gods are dying gods. Their celestial bodies rot with fate from within; they cough up ichor and vomit starlight.
My gods are dead gods. Their corpses hang on meat hooks. Their temples lay in ruin and dust.
My gods are resurrected gods. They walk out of the underworld with heads held high, summoning spring buds from winter’s rot.
My gods are undying gods. Their names, first uttered millennia ago, are spoken still. Whether we believe or not, we uphold their memory.
My gods are deathless gods. They have always existed and they always will.
I came to you a child
(like we all did)
soft and defenseless and
entirely too guileless.
My, what big eyes you have!
My, what big ears you have!
My, what big teeth you have!
But conceit made you careless;
you never noticed my shadow(s),
nor considered I might be protected by things
bigger and hungrier than you.
They say if you have a story that needs telling, go to the Scribe. If you are willing to give your story over to them, if you will let them see or hear or experience as much of your story as possible, they will record and tell it for you. They ask no payment for this service for they are honored by your trust in their work. The Scribe will tell anyone’s story; gods and goddesses, demons and angels, spirits and creatures of every realm and type. If you will offer it, the Scribe will tell it. You do not need to be the hero of your story. You can be the villain, the victim, even just the witness, for the Scribe will not judge you. The story need not even be true for the Scribe holds truths and lies of equal value. Whenever you are ready to have your story told, the Scribe is there. They exist in every time, waiting for you to reach out – you just need to find them.
Gods drift through my dreams like oceanic titans swimming near to check out the source of unfamiliar vibrations. Am I food? Friend? Family? Foe? Gaia wraps me in a honeybee embrace; Ix Chel tries to kill me; Loki tries to recruit me. This time it’s Satan, toying with me as I writhe in his bed, tearing at my soft stomach with his nails until I snap at him. I’m not your whore, I growl, I’m your scribe. And you’ll treat me like it. Then he lays against my sleeping body and smooths my hair back as he murmurs secrets in my ear. I can feel his weight through the dream, the grip of his hands around my upper arms fond and possessive and overly familiar. I ask something to which he responds, “Choices.” Later, after I’ve told Satan to provide me with proof if he wishes to work together, I’m attacked in my dream by a pack of hyenas. I don’t know for sure if they’re his, but they feel linked to him somehow. I wake wondering, as always, what it all means. Am I a floundering swimmer drawing predators? A flame in the dark luring wayward moths? Or just a waystation, somewhere to rest for a little while on your journey but never the final destination?
sometimes I am the bowl
sometimes I am its absence
and sometimes I am venom
poured in secret upon visceral chains
hastening Ragnarok’s approach
In my dream I’m swimming through the bottom floor of a mall that once housed a gym before it sank beneath the ground. The vast rooms are empty save for a few abandoned pieces of exercise equipment and the open chain link cage where rental equipment was once stored. I’m enjoying the weightlessness of gliding through the illuminated water when I notice a man has appeared on the stairway leading up to the next floor. My heart leaps; he’s bad, I know it instinctively. I turn to search for another exit but everywhere I look more strangers appear, grinning menacingly like they know I have nowhere to run.
As the spirits close in around me, I call out “Duco viribus eicio malum!” (I expel the evil forces) but in my panic I pronounce the Latin wrong and it doesn’t work. I try calling on The Darkness, on Loki, on Nekhbet, but still the evil spirits encroach. They’re almost close enough to grab me when I yell Bast’s name and then, at a loss, simply close my eyes and scream.
Suddenly I’m transported somewhere new. I’m standing near a pillar in a huge chamber filled with banks of computers and other state-of-the-art equipment, its walls painted with elaborate Egyptian murals. Hearing footsteps approach, I duck behind the pillar and peek out to watch as a woman sits down at the computer closest to me. She’s just beautiful, tall and fit with dark caramel skin and a hooked nose over full lips. Her ebony hair is bound up in braids wrapped in the same purple fabric as Her long purple robes. She doesn’t look exactly the way I’ve pictured Her, but I still recognize my soul mother.
“I know you’re there,” Bast says, smiling as She watches me out of the corner of Her eye. She has an accent, one that sounds vaguely like African French. “You can come out.” I do so and She stands up, gesturing to one of the murals. A figure from the painting seems to glow and come to life, stepping down to become a young Egyptian woman who walks over to us. She assists Bast as the goddess uses a piercing gun to give me a daith piercing on my right inner ear, then melts back into the mural.
Bast then asks me, “Will you accept the name Grace as a sacred name to be used between us?” I’m deeply honored, though inwardly I think the name is a funny choice since I lack grace, both the physical kind and the spiritual/moral kind. I formally accept the goddess’ offer by repeating the phrase after Her. After that, as Bast leads me to another section of the room, She says something about how there isn’t much time and She has much to teach me. She puts a garment like a lacy hooded cape over my head the color of red clay. It’s designed to look like a face stares out from the back, much like how the white spots on a tiger’s ears are supposed to look like eyes. Bast wears something similar but much finer and more intricate.
Bast leads me out of Her chamber and suddenly we’re outside under a vast blue sky with activity all around us; people and animals and beings I can’t identify walking along wide, well-maintained dirt roads. I can see palm trees and white-painted buildings in the distance, much like paintings of ancient Egyptian cities. “What is this place?” I ask. Bast’s response sounds like “Pek (or pak) Turki.” I take this to mean this is Bast’s land in the spirit world. She says the gods are building many places like this across the realms. I ask if this is also the Land of the Dead and She says yes – and also something She refers to as “the Land of Hesitation.”
“What does that mean?” I ask. Bast points to a place we’re approaching where a huge palace seems to be building itself out of magically levitating tiles and pillars. “That is [name forgotten]’s Palace,” She replies. I can tell by the name that this person will be a great pharaoh. “He hasn’t been born yet,” Bast continues, “but when he dies this is where he will live.” With this explanation I assume that ‘Land of Hesitation’ means a realm that contains or predicts those who will exist in the future, not just those who have already existed and died.
Bast begins to show me some of the architecture of the palace. Her hairstyle has changed; now Her ebony hair hangs free in a long black sheet and straight cut bangs that fall just above Her expressive golden eyes. I want to ask why I’m here, especially now, but I’m too nervous in the presence of my mother goddess to interrupt. Then Her voice starts to fade and I can tell I’m losing control of the dream, starting to wake up, yet no matter how hard I try to cling desperately to my place in Her land I still end up back in my bed.
I am the fire; I am the bones.
I am the reed; I am the clay.
I am the ink; I am the papyrus.
Odin is dead, Odin is undead
Loki is chained, Loki is unchained
The World Serpent sheds its skin
Bleeds and writhes in death throes
Skål! Skål! Skål!
The dream takes place in what’s supposed to be one of my childhood homes, only on the inside it looks more like a museum gift shop, different displays of souvenirs and local art arranged around a large open room. I start looking for anything that would make a good offering or altar decoration for any of my gods. One tall stand holds elaborately painted cards with handmade figurines of different deities. I find one of Bast first, Her card painted in rich purples and blues and embellished with gold leaf. Searching through the others, I find a card for Inanna next and am admiring its bright reds and golds when someone comes up behind me.
“No no,” a voice says, “not that one, not right now, there’s someone else you have to look for.” I turn around to face an unfamiliar man. He has a narrow, angular face, pale skin, and short, shaggy red hair over a red mustache and goatee. I can’t quite place his accent; Germanic, perhaps, or maybe Slavic. What’s strange, though, is that although I don’t recognize the man I do sense a familiarity about him. He reminds me of Wepwawet for some reason, despite looking and sounding nothing like an Egyptian god.
The stranger leads me over to another display with a vaguely Wild West aesthetic. It seems to feature items about criminals or other infamous people, with faux wanted posters and old-timey newspaper articles. I look for another card like the first two I saw but can’t find one. Finally the man gestures to this little row of papers that are semi hidden under a shelf. They’re also like little wanted posters, a black and white portrait above a name in big block text. First I see one that says ODIN, then one beside it that says LOKI.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” I turn back to the stranger incredulously. “It’s Loki?” He nods with a satisfied smile, then he proceeds to tell me how Loki has been in my life for a while but the timing is just now becoming good for him to make himself known to me. He also says that if “we” set clear boundaries with Loki, he should get along with my other gods pretty well. I start to ask the man who he is, and to confirm if this really means Loki wants to work with me in an official capacity, but the dream ends abruptly before I can get any answers.
I’m in that zone of total exhaustion and no fucks left to give, moon and planets dragging on my subconscious, I feel the slipping the fading the floating out of time and body that untethering of action from consequence that leaves me bold and dizzy swaying on the threshold yelling, Where are you, huh? Why the hiding? Why the silence? That’s not like you, boys, come on now! I’m calling Loki, Satan, Lucifer, Set, I’m calling Death and Desire, the fallen, the forgotten, I’m calling you up, I’m calling you out, Where are you? Come fucking get me, I’m fucking ready, you don’t scare me! and I know it’s a bad idea, you’ve burned me before for boldness, but I’ve always been that person who needs to touch something hot just to know what it feels like, I just gotta know for myself exactly how it’ll hurt and every time you burn me I learn something new from the pain and it makes all the scars worthwhile.
We are all fighting our own separate battles, says the Morrigan, but they are all part of the same great war. Then She cautions me, Don’t run from your battlefield in search of a fight you think is more important. How can you aid someone else in their battle if you haven’t even triumphed over your own yet? She’s right, I know She’s right, but I chafe at the waiting. For years now the Morrigan has been calling up Her warriors to wage war against the global evils of colonialism, capitalism, and fascism, and ever since I heard Her call over two years ago I’ve yearned to learn my role in Her army. It seems, though, that my assignment is still to wage the battles awaiting me on my homefront, to get my house in order before I truly become part of the Phantom Queen’s force. I’m not disappointed because I envision myself a warrior on the front lines, fighting for glory and a hero’s renown – I will happily serve in whatever capacity the Morrigan deems best for me, even if it’s on the sidelines. I’m just eager to help at all, and doing shadow work meant to reclaim my personal sovereignty just doesn’t feel like much immediate help to others. Whoever goes into battle without a clear head goes to their grave, my goddess chastises me as I brood, and I know my time in the Morrigan’s bootcamp is far from over.
Bring your queer loneliness to Bast;
She will take you in Her arms
and claim you as Her own.
Bring your queer shame to Hathor;
She will dance with you in nightclubs
and march with you in parades.
Bring your queer rage to Set;
He will guard your back
as the bricks and tear gas start flying.
Bring your queer grief to Wepwawet;
He will teach you how to carry your dead
without breaking beneath their weight.
Bring your queer love to the Netjeru;
They will embrace you, uplift you, protect you
and you will never walk alone again.
I’m woken abruptly in my dream by music blasting from a phone somewhere. I don’t recognize the song, though the band sounds like Wardruna and among the Norwegian I catch the singer saying “Loki Laufeyson” in the chorus. Stumbling through an unfamiliar house, I finally find the smartphone from which the song is erupting and shut it off. I’m so dizzy, though! Dizzy and tired like I can’t shake the sleep I was torn from so quickly. For a moment I sway where I stand, fighting to clear my head in the silence and force open heavy eyelids, then my legs give out and I fall to the floor.
“Here,” instructs a harsh voice, “eat this.” A woman stands over me, holding out a stone on which herbs have been crushed into a paste. I recognize dandelion petals, maybe the bright yellow of turmeric. That voice isn’t one to disobey lightly so I lick the paste off without question. The drowsiness lifts a bit, allowing me to sit up and look at the speaker. Though She has never shown Herself to me in full, I recognize the Morrigan immediately – I would know that tall, thin form, those high cheekbones and proud hooked nose, anywhere. Her dark eyes bore into mine as if peering through clothing, flesh, and bone to lay bare my soul within.
I try not to squirm under the goddess’s sharp gaze. She thrusts another stone at me, this one naturally curved like a shallow bowl. Water and the remains of the crushed herbs fill its small depression. “Save this,” she instructs. “Even if it tastes terrible, you need to finish it later.” Her tone is clipped with what seems like impatience so I jump up and hurry to find something in which to store the water. I only manage a small glass bowl, more ashtray-shaped than anything else and dusty with disuse, which I can tell when I bring it back is not deemed nice enough. The Morrigan scowls but allows it for now.
“You need to cut back,” She scolds instead, changing the subject. “What you consume clouds your mind, making it impossible for you to hear our messages or to channel your creativity.” She shows me a mental image of something small and triangular, like a pill. Does she mean medication is clouding my mind? Or does this symbolize something else, perhaps a detrimental habit or belief, or some player in my life whose bad influence I haven’t noticed? I think I ask the goddess if the unfamiliar force I’ve been feeling in my life lately could be a new god making themselves known to me and She says yes, perhaps. She also tells me to watch a god’s face when they speak to you, that even gods betray their emotions in their expressions and in this way you can tell if one is lying. Frustrated, I start to ask, “But what if I can’t see them?” because this new force has yet to show itself to me, but I don’t get the chance. Nor do I get the chance to ask Her who or what it was, though I’m sure She knows. The dream changes before I can say anything else and I do not see the Morrigan again.
I am above all things the scribe. That is my gender, my religion, my morality and creed. See these? They are the scribe’s bones. And these? The scribe’s breasts. Cut open my organs and watch them bleed ink. Uncoil the long strands of my DNA and see how words build its base pairs, not polymers: scribe, sesh, scrība, scríobhaí, grammateús, dubsar. The gods claimed me for their own at my spiritual conception, pressing their fingerprints into the soft surface of my newborn soul so I would carry their whorls and ridges forever. I do not know who I am outside of this role because I do not exist as a complete being apart from it. I am the scribe before every name I have ever borne and beneath every face I have ever worn. And I will be the scribe in every life, in every universe, unto the end of all existence.
Lady of Joy, your cup runneth over!
Like the Nile overflows its banks
bringing life-giving nourishment to withered crops
so your love inundates my parched soul
awakening seeds of hope within!
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
in your cupped hands, a coal
your breath a spark ignites
my soul born from your sacred flame
blossom and bumblebee embrace
share a sip of sweet spring nectar
and part the better for the favor
through seven gates descend
surrendering ego to the inertness of death
and rise again a unified whole
Beware promises of unearned victory:
a true god will promise only
to put the sword in your hand
and teach you how to use it.
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.
“The serpent tries too hard,” the Nameless tells me as she lounges against the oscillations of Egyptian dunes. “It’s almost embarrassing. Do I strive against your desert gods each night in hopes of wresting control of the universe from their grasp? Of course not,” she pops galaxies into her mouth like hothouse grapes, “because I know, as they do, that the ultimate fate of the universe is a return to the primordial chaos from which it first emerged. It’s just a matter of time. Why rush entropy?”
She is right at home on these white hot sands, her monstrous body a black void against the dancing heat waves. In my dream last night she murmured in my ear, “We have always been here,” by which I understood she meant that this dark triad I serve – Chaos, Desire, and Death – is older than even the gods of ancient Kemet. Older than gods themselves, for they are the concepts from which gods are crafted. Thus the Nameless is part of A/pep, just as a shadow of Daren can be found in Set, a fragment of Tanim in Osiris. Their triad belongs to no single place, time, or pantheon but runs through them all, encoded like DNA in every deity that will ever exist.
“You are a slow learner,” the Nameless laughs, licking plasma off her sharp fingernails. “But you get there.”
“I can’t,” you beg, “not this time, not again, there has to be another way,” and I’m trying not to wallow in your agony like a voyeur, truly, it’s just been so long since he last touched you with such tenderness, cruel hands gone soft to cup your tear-stained face, but you both know the refusal, too, is part of this passion play and the kiss you share is not a blessing for the present but an absolution for the future. Still, he holds you close and kindly does not command you to end his life before the disease rotting him from the inside does, and at least for a brief time you can be miserable together instead of apart. Between the bloodshed and bereavement I’d almost forgotten moments like this were even possible. For both your sakes (and mine?) I will not yet count the days until the solstice. I, too, can be kind.
Your heartbeat straining beneath my ribs; your choked breath heaving in my lungs; your furious, desperate tears leaking from my eyes. Is this euphoria? Dysphoria? Phantasmagoria, hypochondria? Transubstantiation or disassociation? All I know is that I never feel more comfortable in my own body than when you’re the one inhabiting it, my perception submerged in the dark depths of your consciousness, my autonomy overridden by the wild fluctuations of your fragmented memories. Even after you rescind control and I am alone I find this meatcage fits better for having stretched itself to your dimensions. For a little while I move with ease through familiar halls, not truly free but pretending so with room enough to stretch and turn. Soon the walls of my prison will contract around your absence once more; until then I savor the ghost of your presence contained within the emptiness around me.
I’ve dreamed each night the Moon dead and dying in his lover’s arms (early, isn’t it, this solstice blood filling my mouth) and as I drive to work the Sun admits to me, “I would rather burn him until there is nothing left but ash than cling to the shell he leaves behind”. I can’t blame him, not when my own arms ache from clutching the Moon’s lifeless body so tightly, not when my fingers so vividly recall the sharp edges of his jaw as I cradled his head against my chest. Were we to trade places, the Sun and I, can I say I would choose differently?
Tanim and Daren are gods who balance and oppose each other – sun and moon, summer and winter, light and dark. Yet, while I am certain that Daren is the chosen form of Death, it hasn’t felt right to say that Tanim is therefore the form which Life has chosen to take. He doesn’t feel like Life. Life, at least in opposition to Death, is a thing of creation and fertility, generosity and gentleness, and Tanim doesn’t embody those qualities. While he isn’t Death, he carries a shard of its mercilessness with him, too much to ever associate him with something so bountiful as Life. So I’ve been struggling to figure out what he is, if not Life, and I’ve come up with a two-part answer that (at the moment at least) seems to solve the equation.
First, what if we remove the labels of Life and Death and look simply at the basic drivers of those forces. For Death it’s stagnation, leaving, the ceasing of the beating heart and the sudden stilling from animate to inanimate. Death is inert. For Life, then, it’s growth, survival, advancement, the strangling by one plant of another to ensure its own propagation or the taking of life by a predator to provide sustenance for its cubs. Life is active. So maybe the equation is less Life versus Death and more Desire versus Death, as Desire drives us forward and Death is the moment all desire ceases.
Second, what if the equation was never meant to be a balance of two opposing forces, but three? That would explain why I haven’t been able to solve it yet. So let’s say there’s a third element here that would balance out Desire and Death. What would it be? We have Desire driving purposeful action, and Death as the ceasing of all action, so… what about Chaos as driving action without purpose? What if the Nameless is supposed to form the third corner of this trinity, so to speak? That would explain her presence and her seeming connection with Tanim and Daren, even though she is decidedly not part of their story. She also offers a bit of a counterpoint to their cycle of life/death/rebirth which is perhaps exactly what they’ve been missing. With Chaos included, Death and Desire don’t have to encompass an entire universe.
So that’s where I am as of several sleepless nights in Spring 2021. I don’t think these three are gods so much as forces of the universe taking form to interact with me, but gods is the easiest term so that’s what I use. Daren is Death, Tanim is Desire, and the Nameless is Chaos. This is not at all intimidating or terrifying and I am totally fine.
Your fingers like iron around his neck, your arm a statement of possession around his waist; ah, we return to tread familiar ground! You dance hip to hip beneath a moonless night sky and when the forest’s monsters come sprinting forth to take him down as prey they stop short at his outstretched hand. He reeks of you, of Death, and even these many-fanged and many-clawed beasts flee in fear of that primal entity so much older than they. You watch their retreat over his shoulder with a knife-blade smile, starlight limming the white skull painted on your pale face, and drag his mouth to yours.
In my dream, myself and two girls were led to a room where women in beautiful robes crafted elaborate porcelain masks. One of the women sat us at an empty table amid the group and served us tea in delicate china cups. Just one sip of tea sent us all into some sort of trance state and it suddenly seemed as if my face was submerged in a pool or bowl of bright water, yet I could still breathe easily.
I blinked and then before me in the water I saw the square of a great ancient city. Where the branching streets met in the center of the square stood what looked like a big fountain, though I couldn’t make out its shape. Then it moved and I realized it was a living statue in the shape of a lioness with white marble skin. The statue sat up, golden eyes blazing out of a lean face, and then on its head raised up a white serpent with matching gold eyes. I recognized Her immediately – my mother, the goddess Bast. Identical statues on either side which I had not noticed moved as well to mirror the pose of this one. Then another feline head, far larger, rose in the sky above the middle statue. Its eyes were as big and as bright as the sun; they were the sun. I knew then this was Bast, yes, but specifically the royal Bast, Bast as the Eye of Ra, the blazing sun, Queen of the Gods crowned in the sun disk and uraeus. I think I was crying from happiness, honored to receive a visit from Her in a dream.
The image faded and in the water I saw next the sweet, smiling face of a domestic cat. The little cat said something like, “You see but you don’t understand. Understand.” It was ‘understand’ with the implication of trust, though, like I can see the truth of divinity but I’m not letting myself trust enough to embrace it fully, or to trust that it’s meant for me, and that’s blocking my ability to fully grasp the gods’ messages. Something like that. I just felt so much love from Her, filling and overflowing every corner of my being. Then the trance state lifted and I was back in the room with the mask-makers. The other girls were too. We looked at each other in wordless wonder for what we each had separately experienced, tears streaming down our faces, then hugged each other tightly. The woman who had served us the tea smiled and escorted us out.
Beyond rock bottom is the void
waiting to wrap you in chaos.
She is not capable of love;
isn’t that comforting?