Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Voice From the Thornwood

Photo Credit: A Thorny Issue by hair-flick via flickr
I have become a bit obsessed by this book I am editing at the moment. It was discovered, in a very rough form, in a series of notebooks left behind in the 1990's by a Thornish tribal sister of mine. In her own words, Corva relates how she came to be a Thornish pagan and an initiated member of the Black Talon Society.

Corva's words are powerful and honest and I believe they will speak to many people, as they speak to me. Today I would like to share an excerpt from the beginning of the book, where Corva speaks of meeting an old woman, whose words set Corva on her path.

A Voice from the Thornwood  will be available in print this fall from Thornwod Press.

… I stopped at a cafĂ© for a much-needed cup of coffee. In those days there were still a lot of places which allowed smoking inside. I was trying to quit that habit and I decided to sit outside beneath an awning and have my drink in the refreshing September air.

“It sounds like someone pounding their fists on thick glass, doesn’t it?” came a voice from nearby.

Surprised, I turned to see an old woman sitting at a nearby table. She was quite elderly and appeared to be of First Nations heritage. I estimated she was probably well into her seventies though her long, grey hair still had a substantial amount of midnight black in it, despite the encroaching gray.

She sat there, all bundled up in her grey and black wool jacket and smiled at me as though we had known each other for many, many years.

I looked around, thinking perhaps she was speaking to someone else. “Excuse me?” was all I could think to say.

There was a very powerful aura about this elderly lady. I could feel it almost immediately once she began speaking to me. Her voice was soft and warm and somewhat deeper than one might expect from an old lady. Her presence was very calming and did not trigger the mind-your-own-business reflex I was gradually developing.

“I have been where you are, child,” she said kindly. “You have a lot of troubles in your life and they are running you down a dead end road. I can see it written all over you because I was down that road too, years ago.”

Was I that obvious? I began to feel very embarrassed. If one old lady, a stranger, could see my problems like that, what did those closer to me see?

“The true woman-spirit is still in there, you see,” the old lady continued. “I can see her in you as well. She is the spark inside you, the reason you are not dead yet. She has been trying to tell you that she wants to come out and help you. That’s where that thumping sound comes from, sweetie, that sound of fists pounding on glass. It’s the glass of this bad medicine world.”

I felt the hair running up the back of my neck standing on edge as a chill ran down my spine. How had she known about the thumping sound?

This old woman was the kind of person I wish I had known when I was a little girl. I had never known my grandparents and there were many times when I wished I had a grandmother or grandfather to tell me stories or simply to comfort me as a child. I felt tears welling yet again in my eyes as I looked pleadingly at this elderly lady, wishing she was my grandmother.

“How…how can I get well again?” I asked quietly, my voice half a sob.

The elderly lady got up and came over to where I was sitting. She set her purse down on the table and sat down next to me, placing her arm around me.

I lost it and for the second time that day I fell into a storm of grief. I cried and cried and cried, right there on that old lady’s shoulder.

Eventually, as I ran out of tears and calmed myself down, the lady offered me a handkerchief to dry my eyes. I gratefully accepted and returned it to her after a moment.

 “Now, you asked me how you can get better again,” she said at last. “Well, I’ll tell you that the longer you stay in this place the more bad medicine will accumulate in your spirit, dear. The very best thing for you to do is to go away from here and heal yourself up.”

“I have no one,” I said. “My family is gone and I have nowhere to go except here.”

The old lady looked at me very intensely for a few minutes, as if she was trying to figure something out about me or perhaps trying to make a decision. Her gaze was quite focused in that brief time and for a very small moment I began to be afraid. I felt as if perhaps this lady was far more than she appeared and that maybe behind the gentle grandmotherly surface there was something powerful and predatory.

“Has anyone ever taught you about totems or about medicine animals?” she asked at last.

I had heard something about this kind of thing years ago. I knew that in some indigenous societies the people were guided by powerful animal spirits who they looked to for help and guidance. I nodded in response to the lady’s seemingly unusual question and related what I knew.

She nodded. “Raven watches over you. It is pretty obvious when you know what to look for in a person.”


“Yes, Raven. He is a trickster of sorts but also a very powerful teacher of many things,” she replied with a wistful half-smile on her face. “He is very noble and has brought a great many good things to the world. You are lucky to have someone like that still watching over you. There are times when these watchers, these spirit people, get sick of the things we do to ourselves and leave us. When that happens a lot of the time we just give up and die.”

“I didn’t die,” I said, thinking about the possibilities, the what-ifs in my life.

“No, you didn’t die. Not yet anyways,” she replied. “But if you want to heal you need to leave this city and all these hollow people behind. It’s no good for you and if you aren’t careful you will just fall back into the hole. That warrior woman wants to come out and help you, so let her do that. She’s the one who you were supposed to become, not this shadow person I see sitting next to me.”

“I am a shadow person.” I sighed. I knew her description was accurate. I was a faded remnant of what I had hoped to become.

“I can still see you though, and there is hope in that,” the old lady said with a gentle smile. “The only way you can get better is to go let that warrior woman out and let her guide you on the road.”

The lady reached into her bag, not the purse that she had placed on the table but a somewhat larger embroidered bag she had slung on her shoulder. From that bag she produced the most amazing long, glossy black feather. On the quill of the feather there were three gorgeous golden colored beads that sparkled in the light despite the gloomy grey of the day.

She reverently reached over and placed the feather in my hand and told me it was a gift and it would be a special charm to guide me on the road.

“You need to get out, sweetie,” she said after she handed over the feather and watched me marveling over it. “Just like I got out of the place I was in all those years ago. You need to get out and go on the road. Find your young womanhood again, find your special place in the sun and the moon and, even more importantly, go find yourself a true family.”

“A true family?”

“Do you know what a place-marker is?”

“Like a marker in a book? A bookmark?”

“Something along those lines, yes,” she replied. “I mean you no disrespect when I say that your parents were probably of that sort. They were here to act as your keepers until you were old enough to go out on your own. But other than that they did not really nurture you or ally themselves with you. They didn’t stand with you when your natural instincts and dreams became known.”

I felt myself becoming angry at the old lady. My parents were dead. Who was she who had never even known them to be saying such things about them?

But then, seconds after the anger, the cold realization, powerful and deep in my stomach, told me that this person had seen the truth and was not afraid to tell me what she saw.

I felt like I was going to be sick.

“Don’t feel bad, sweetie,” she said consolingly. “My parents were the same. They had all the spirit knocked out of them and didn’t even know how to do anything more than be my keepers when I was young.”

“Why?” I asked, meaning, Why had they been like that, acting only as place-holders and staying at arms’ length, keeping me from following my heart?

“Because we are in the midst of a great war, sweetheart,” she replied. “This is a war which has been going on for centuries and it is invisible to all but the truly awakened. On one side there is a great evil that wants to destroy everything in the world and all life along with it. On the other hand there are the ones who want to protect the sacred Earth and all of her children. A big part of the evil is the way that people have been indoctrinated over the centuries so that they believe nothing is wrong…and with each passing generation they become less and less spirited. In the end most are simply tame cattle.”

“And me…and people like me? What are we?”

“Lights in the darkness, dear,” she said. “And the enemies of the earth don’t like people like you very much, I am afraid to say. Just as they don’t like creatures like me. So people like us need to go and find our own families, people who will nurture our gifts and dreams…and the special powers we each have.”

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