Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Cat in the Well~A Halloween Fantasia

It's here at last! Halloween, All Hallows, All Souls Day, The Day of the Dead, whatever you care to call it; my favorite holiday. To commemorate it, I repost this nice cozy horror poem, as I have every Halloween since it was first written, a little Verse Escape tradition. Enjoy!

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 Yggdrasil. 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.

For when the cat fell, the light (so remote, so white) blazed
sudden, sure it could end the dead dream that crawls 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 come 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
reposted October 31, 2015, slightly revised
Original notes:
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 Yggdrasil 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.
Image: Cat on a Roof, by Ferdnando Botero, fair use via


  1. Well, well, happy All Hallows Hedge, and thanks for news of my Ghost on the other side of the well's wall. Not a wailing song at all, merry really, and dazzling in its precise leaps from here to nothing and back. (Offering us a cat who guards "what I can't spend when the faith gave way gave out gave in.--huzzah) There's faith and faithlessness here, Odin and nuttin', churned by this buttery feline with an art of heart's gold. Really. The final button two lines race both ways around the worlds to offer a grand, Halloweenmost benediction. Its loopy and mythic and sheer delight. Thanks for the gift!

    1. Thanks B--and a very happy All Hallows to you and St. Oran. Your help here was invaluable, and yes--there is a wry disporting element among the rituals that revere the beloved dead as well as all the sinister more familiar tropes--if we can allow ourselves to take from them as they give to us what they once had/were, surely they rejoice.Thanks for the long strange Octoberal trip.

  2. This is a magnificent tale, so well told. The way you described the cat's possession by the spriggan is excellent. I could see it all so clearly, the long climb to freedom.

  3. What a vision! I really like the connection to the Odin story and the cat as savior, even if it was not intentional on the cat's part! LOL

  4. Ha! Very well told. Very Poe! Very Hedgewitch! k.

  5. I read recently that in the middle ages the fear of cats led to their annihilation, hastening and worsening the plague.

    Your pen is fantastic. I wish i could say something intelligent but I'm plum out... ~


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

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