Monday, October 31, 2011

The Cat in the Well~A Halloween Fantasia

It's here at last! The Big Day at Castle Hedgewitch: Halloween, All Hallows, All Souls Day, The Day of the Dead, whatever you care to call it, my favorite holiday. To commemorate it, I've written a nice cozy horror poem. Hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

The Cat in the Well

My name is not Odin (I forget my name) but I’ve lived
in the well for a mad moon’s making, alone with the roots
the deep water oozing and lapping the bones’ sweet arch
that lifts my home, my tumulus a wet black mouth, alone
till the cat fell. My dying was long, my strength nearly gone
till the cat fell, till the cat came down the well.

Odin was a god, (so I heard before this spell) death gave him back,
yet a well took him in, his eye for a drink from the frost giant’s blood
below the world tree. I am not he, but a shrunken spriggan,
devil’s daughter, giants’ kin hung here stranded in small skin
to guard what I can't spend, when the faith gave way gave out gave in.
Even the dark forgets my names, forgets my games,
even the dark, till the one I played at with the fallen cat.

Because when the cat fell the light (so remote, so far above) blazed
sudden and sure it could end the dead dream that crawls
through my veins of a land where we once loomed large long gone,
because of that I let him live, alone of them all. He took my hands,
he took my tongue, he gave his eyes, I loth to stop what he’d begun.
He took my tongue the cat that fell, the cat that came down the well.

So we climbed mossy walls (my cat tail lashing) dank with the muck
of an ancient thralling, slippery with uneaten grief, treasure slid wry,
each stone a stele for a life thrown away, each drop in the bucket red
until we came to the rim, and his amber eyes set in mine
began to shine, began to glow so all should know
the spirit cat was up from the well, with many another tale to tell;
the spirit cat that fell, the cat that came up from the well.

October 26,2011

I've mingled (or perhaps mangled) several different archetypes here:
Odin, god of war, poetry,prophecy and magic in Norse myth traded his eye for a drink from Mimir's well, where the ancient wisdom of the frost giants was said to flow up from beneath the world tree Yygdrasil from the primordial void of Chaos.
A spriggan is a mostly malevolent spirit from Cornish folklore, generally found guarding treasure in burial mounds or the like, believed to be small ghosts of an earlier race of giants.
Cats, of course, were thought to be malignant, and often said to be familiars of witches or demons in medieval belief. Other cultures, such as the Ancient Egyptians, have held them sacred, and believed they possessed various magical qualities.

Special thanks to my son for the video he sent, which set me off on this particular trip, and to Brendan, for his input on the one-eyed god of the hanged.


  1. I knew it would be posted at exactly midnight! So worth the wait. I'm soaking up the excellent atmosphere at Castle Hedgewitch and rereading.

  2. @Anna: yes, because it's all about the ambience, ;_) and the skulls and things.

  3. I love the spriggan-demon.

    And the imagery of your cat-self climbing up the muck slippery with uneaten grief is wonderfully telling (and the image below it creepy!) I really like all the actions of this cat who fell and climbs back up. On which life is she now? Ninety-ninth?

    Happy Halloween to your good/bad cat self, whatever your name is!

  4. I love "when the faith gave way gave out gave in". Sounds a bit like a witch's incantation. And so it is!

    PS--Bosco says cats are not to be trusted!

  5. so the cats got your tongue eh? smiles...a delicious tale to start my mourning...morning of halloween...hope you have a spooktacular evening...dont scare too many kiddos

  6. A twisted fairy tale for young witches, for sure, banishing Galahadean Paraomours from the queen's 'hood long enough to let a proper fancy ghoose the ghoul. Something of this forgotten, forgetful figure down at the bottom of the well reminds me of the dragon snoozing beneath Tolkein's Misty Mountains -- a place so old and forgotten that every lost religion's piled up among the booty. And trust to a cat to save things, even remit its own awareness to ferry back that soul. The repeating lines at the end of the stanza give this deadly serious saga a fairy tale gleam. Every poet has h/her familiar to scout the way ahead. Halloween greetings from the pouring cataracts of drowned Florida ... When your cat fell down the well and slipped the spriggan from time's cell, they left the capstone loose and now look at us, a buncha pumpkins & skulls & trickertreaters bobbing on the flood. - Brendan

  7. Joy,
    Eerie but entertaining. The cat was way down,but back up the mossy walls each time. The cat had 9 lives and was up and down. Amazingly you could keep pace. Excellent write!


  8. Many thanks all. This was fun, if of the creepy kind.

    @FB: But he wouldn't be biased or anything...

    @Ruth: Glad you enjoyed the feline delving and diving, and yes, at least number 99.

    @B: Definitely a parallel--the old and forgotten powers guard the mysteries, the golden 'treasures' which like the dragons' hoardings, are only spendable by others. It's a long and parlous trip to get there, but the way back up can be even worse, unless Puss in Roots happens to come by to offer assistance. Thanks for reading, and for your help with this one.

  9. Disturbing in an admirable sort of way. A shrunken, spriggan devil's daughter- what an image that conjures. Perfect for this day.

  10. What a fantastic poem, just glorious to read. "for a mad moon's making". Wow. Maybe you might like to link it to today's request for Hallowe'en poems over at Real Toads? Yours being the ultimate poem on that theme that I have read today!!

  11. Sure Sherry, be happy to--but I don't know how much commenting I'll be able to do this week.

  12. I absolutely do love this Halloween poem! It has the greatest structure and movement to it. Well, like a cat. :)

    You sure did not mangle the different archetypes. Rather, you created something that could be studied in a classroom setting while being thoroughly enjoyed.

    I am here one-and-one-half hours late (PST) for true Halloween wishes, but the ones falling belatedly are most sincere. :)

  13. Well this is indeed a magnum opus of Halloween writes. I loved every line: the slow build up of tension which you handled so well in the creepy narrative voice, then the transmutation of spirit and cat, and climactic climb to living air. Awesome writing.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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