new world magic

new world magic is different.
the Cherokee say when the earth was mud
risen from water, grandfather buzzard
sank valleys & lifted mountains
with his careless wings

& they told of a world under this one
whose people knew summers in our winters
and winters in our  summers
guessing at a sister hemisphere
but traveled to by swimming through the earth
by way of springs

myths are different here–no greenman
or fae, but spirits asleep in tree roots
or whispered in growing corn, waking
to run with deer, archetypes
owning coyote wisdom
& gifting peyote visions

there are no ladies of lakes here
but the water serpent Uncegila
spread salt into rivers.  when she died
her body dried into Badlands,
sprouting cactus & wind

this valley is an old place
to stand in, but no Tisayac walks here
to watch over her lover
even in winter, where wind bends
to whisper secrets &  snowsnakes
slip from trees to twist at my feet

speaking of the woman who fell from the sky
& her daughter, who loved the west wind
& died to become the mother of corn–
Iroquois stories familiar to this half-daughter
who hears voices when she forgets whiteness
& is sometimes bold enough

to answer.

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About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
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34 Responses to new world magic

  1. Anthropology, poetry
    roots that go deep
    a soul that peeks into the past
    a past that seeps into the present
    spirits that call and communicate
    and commute between then and now

    all are here in this wonderful poem. well done, Susan

  2. jmgoyder says:

    How do you do this? It’s as if you are made of words – fantastic words!

  3. Sisyphus47 says:

    I feel that the Native Americans knew (know?) more about this world than “we” do… 🙂

    • I think they did (do). There is definitely an intimacy with the earth here that is missing in the old-world mindset, unless we speak of the “old” old-world pagans, who seemed to also have their finger on the pulse of the planet. It seems a shame that we disconnect from that relationship with the earth when we become “civilized.”

  4. mobius faith says:

    Wonderful imagery. I especially love the “spirits asleep in tree roots or whispered in growing corn”. Quite magical. Thanks for this.

    • Terry–thank you! I have a particular fondness for images that are given to me in dreams, and the spirits asleep in tree roots and whispered in corn was one of them. Glad you enjoyed this.

  5. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

    This is very rich in names and images (and awareness). I think what I am enjoying most is the way you move me through the history and the landscape in such a fluid motion.

    • Thank you, Jeremy. I have been reading a lot of old-world folklore (don’t ask), and then yesterday morning I woke up with a new world dreamed response to all of it–telling me to ignore the elves, etc., of Europe and look at the animism on this continent. Glad you liked, and hope it works to some extent.

  6. ruleofstupid says:

    Hey SuPorn, that was my my Native American Indian Spirit Guide Crystal Healing Auric Past Life Ouija Flower Remedy !! Thief!

  7. nelle says:

    Sometimes bold enough. What marks the retreat?

    • hmmm. This time I am going to blame the dog, who is a coward, and walks with me, despite the fear of his own shadow–not to mention the shadows of snowflakes and the squawks of birds. Hard to be brave when you are under 15 pounds, though. His fear does break my communions with nature quite a bit, but he’s cute and usually decent company, so I put up with it.

  8. Interesting ‘dragon’ (Uncegila) aspect too! Wonderful!

  9. annotating60 says:

    Mythically and artistically conceived and well executed. Remind me someday to dig out a series of short poems using Iriquois mythic gods. This is much more elegant though. KB

    • KB, thank you! Thrilled that you like this. Would definitely like to see the Iroquois mythic poetry (felt bad I just gave them the last stanza, considering the tellers of those tales were relatives ‘way back).

  10. jomul7 says:

    For a moment, I was transported in a different world and this is why I like science fiction and futuristic novels. This was a dream but the kind of dreams that reminds you that there’s more beyond the cold metal, pavements and buildings that surrounds, out there the world is still breathing and once in awhile it’s worth connecting to it to remember our humanity.
    Thank you for sharing!

  11. archcardinal says:

    There are several cosmogony and theogony stories in the African society. Each vary from town to town, just as the dialects are affected. They are often represented as myths or folklore in our modern society. However unrealistic these stories might seem, they all are traced to an original truth, which in most cases, the community lacks a technological frame of reference to describe or comprehend. For instance, Amadioha the god of thunder is assumed to have evolved or at least, bear the image of the ram as its representation. In my reasoning, I will say that this imagery is based on the strength or obduracy of the ram, or some sort of light illusion that the lightening might bring.

    It thus goes to the truth-fancy model of most oral myths. It usually starts with truth which are often less appealing but flares into fancy as the story is retold over the generation. There is of course, very little justification for the survival of the cacti in the desert and where the salt could have possibly got into the ocean, so as always, the people would seek explanations from approximates in the elements available to the technology they in fact understand.

    In your poetry, the old woman who fell from the sky, or the Uncegila who put salt in the rivers whose dried body sprout badlands, cacti and wind are mostly the Cherokee’s explanation for their environment with at least some intention to deify its contents to offer them some hope or belief in a higher power.

    In Igbo culture, we have Ala (earth), Igwe(heavens), Agwu (Sanity), Amadioha/Kalu/Kamalu (Thunder & Lightening), Ikenga (Justice), Ajoku/Njoku (Yam and ‘Male’ crops), Chukwu (The Head God) and several other minor deities. Their theogonies have been used to explain or at least justify our cosmogony… you are in the right direction dear. We all owe it to our culture to hold on to that fable… in it lies some reason

    (Now I am officially writing another blog within your blog)

    • Oh, you are most definitely welcome to write blogs within my blog if you are sharing such wonderful insight! I think there is a beauty and simplicity in the way the culture of my grandmother personified everything–her relationship to the earth was personal, and the stories, as you have so wisely said, do provide an explanation for the world we live in. This, somehow, she managed to weave into her vibrant Christian faith to form a unique and magical world-view. What I am learning of your Igbo cosmogony here, through what you have shared, seems to lead in exactly the same direction.

      • archcardinal says:

        Within Okigbo’s poetry, you will find a representation of these mythical personages where makes reference to “Mushroom of the Sky” which is a transliteration of Elo Igwe or simply, the heavens. He also said in one of the poems “and I say to the ram, disarm” and “except by rooting, who could pluck the yam from the base”.

        In Igbo culture unlike the West, the Sheep is the epitome of stupidity and one of the highest insults to an Igbo man is to call him a sheep (Aturu). However, Ebule is exempted from this negative image and is viewed as a symbol of stength and a totem for the veneration of Amadioha. To this end, people actually bear names like ‘Okebule’ which transliterates to ‘Male Ram’ or more directly as the Grand (or Super) Ram and Ogbuebule (Ram Killer in recognition of great valour). You can of course have guessed that Ebule = Ram.

        You can imagine the confusion christianity would have caused when it designated its followers are “Sheep” and the saviour, a “Shepherd” (this job is for the failed men in the society. No man wants to be less than a great farmer, a warrior or a great hunter. And as you can guess, the Igbos are a Super-Macho republican society without a single kingship figure. There is however, representative council of elders populated by the oldest males of each family or kindred (who again, must be valiant & prosperous) for each community to debate and agree on communal issues. So subservience to a religion with a single authority figure and with such demeaning imagery was fiercely resisted. But gratefully, Igbos are about the ‘most christian’ of all Nigerians today. Now here comes the exciting part…

        Thanksgiving in church (or expression of gratitude to God for extra-ordinary events) is still represented by the Ram (and when the man is well off, a Bull) and Yams as in the days of old. Ram in this case still retaining an unspoken veneration as the Totem of Amadioha, the ultimate decider and executor of justice, and Yam (the ultimate male crop, and by far one of the parameters for measuring an Igbo man’s success) as the Ultimate product of the marriagee between ‘Ala’ the earth goddess and ‘Njoku’ the male god of agriculture all in the realm peopled by spirits. Either way, the marriage story explains how a yam seedling produces tuber when put into the soil and in the mystery of the wonderment just as the ram’s free spirit and the expression of pure ‘Igboness’ in its obduracy and resolve, the myth is spun and thus began the veneration.

        So even in christianity today, resides elements of these age-long veneration of these totems and symbolic representations.

  12. You are describing another marriage here–the one between the indigenous and the “new” that somehow, despite the fact that they spring from people of different continents, of different cultures, languages, experiences and consciousness seem to strangely mirror one another. I think my Iroquois grandmother would have enjoyed sitting down with your Igbo grandmother, swapping stories and comparing myths. I need to read Okigbo. Amazon can’t get that book here fast enough.

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