A beautiful poem by Daniel MacKenzie.
I can’t find a website for Daniel, so I transcribed this from an OBOD (Order of Bards Ovates & Druids) podcast. When I first transcribed the poem (July 2011), I tried to contact Daniel to get permission to publish his work, but all avenues proved fruitless. I hope I’ve transcribed it correctly!
Step onto the path into the forest.
The path that is completely new, yet so familiar.
On the first clearing, you will meet an old druid and he will tell you a story.
Remember it well, it will guide you back.
When you meet the crooked old one, give her something.
Be compassionate towards the ugly one, he deserves it.
Be cautious towards the pretty one, she can be treacherous.
Listen to the experiences of the blind old man, but be prepared to make your own.
When you scold your finger, lick it.
The earthly confinements of your body will set you free.
Your watery tears, both of laughter and of loss will drown you if you hold them back.
Your airy thoughts are starved by others and nourished by their absence,
and the fires of transformation hurt, so good.
When you emerge from the dark, damp silence,
stand in the morning light and let the sun shine on your brow.
Celebrate your birthday and create yourself a gift to share.
And then go on, go deeper into the forest if you dare.
Take heed of the songs of way worn weeds, for they are mostly unemployed and love your attention.
Some might clean for you, some might heal you, and some might bless you.
Recruit them as you wish, but don’t over tax them or they will unionise and bring you down.
Keep a journal. For all that’s worth, keep a journal because the clearer your dreams get, the more hazy your recollections of the waking world will be.
When a tree gives you a gift, keep it. But give something of yourself in return.
When you make a first approach, make an entrance, but a gentle one.
And know that most farewells need to be done three times before you can really set off again.
In a round clearing, the seasons sit in circle, having a feast. Join them as often as you can and learn their stories. Spring is secretly in love with autumn, but don’t tell summer, she will only gossip and worsen winters mood.
Mind your manners when you meet with the deceased. Know that long-dead relatives can be as loving as live ones, but also, sometimes, as much a pest.
When a skeleton turns up, lay it gently to peace in a nice place or it will bite you and the wound will fester.
Be prepared to get hurt with scratches and bruises on the way.
Some will ease away smoothly and some will leave scars.
Some will never heal, but in time you might learn to see in the cut, fates way of making a punchline.
Remember who you are. Remember where you came from. Remember your name.
And then forget it all for a time. Be like a wild beast and live freely and without care in the forest.
It will all come back to you at the right moment.
When the trees are stripped bare, prepare.
When the sap rises, sing praises.
When the trees are green, be serene.
The stars will tell you stories, but beware, then tend to exaggerate and their morals are sometimes quite patronising.
Feel free to set them right.
You may pause here now and enjoying the gifts you have received, the stories you have heard, and change your shoes.
The way from her on leads onwards and upwards as you start to climb towards the sacred summit.
Keep your eyes on your goal, even if it’s shrouded in mist.
But do enjoy the view whilst heading for it.
If you find a good stick on your way, use it as a support.
You don’t need to go alone, have some travelling companions instead.
The wise wizard will give you power but it comes at a cost.
The lady will give you visions. Hope that you can forget some.
The king will give you insights. You might feel compelled to act upon.
The champion will test your honour. Know what it is you defend.
The queen will give you her heart. Give it back.
The innocent will play with you a merry game. Take it very seriously.
The hermit will slap you, either on your back or on your face. Be grateful for both.
If you find the holy grail on your way, keep it. It will look nice on your mantelpiece.
Allow yourself to shine. And then free the two dragons, the red and the white, and ride them.
You will not burn, you will not fall, and you never needed that tower anyway.
When you come back to where you started, you will find a community there.
Serve them well. And then go back to your family, or found a family, or start all over again.
Poem by Daniel MacKenzie. Images by me.