The walls of (un)Familiar were decorated with poems and quotations which express some part of pagan or psychic experience. I decided to quote them on the website as well, so that benighted foreigners living beyond the reach of Edinburgh's fair(ish) city could still share that experience - could immerse themselves in the "touch of strange" which underpinned life as she was lived at (un)Familiar.

I have not yet got around to asking for formal permission to reproduce these, though I hope to do so eventually. I don't think there should be any serious copyright issues, though, because the poems are reproduced here without any commercial purpose, and serve as advertisements for the different authors concerned, bringing them to a new audience and with any luck bringing them new sales!

[Strictly speaking both the shop and the website were commercial of neccessity, since the shop had to pay for itself in an attempt to survive: but that wasn't its primary motivation, and certainly not the motivation for displaying these poems. If we had taken the poems down I don't suppose we would have lost a single sale thereby: we showed them only to share the sacred, luminous/numinous mood they create.]


Vanir creation myth
Extract from the Upanishads
The House of the Hare
The Good Shepherd
The Green Man
To Juan at the Winter Solstice
The Children of Cerridwen
Hanes Taliesin
Amergin's Charm
The Rune of St Patrick
Stone and Fern
Temps Perdu
There exists something that fits nowhere
Druid Prayer for the Newly Dead
God is alive
Them as believes nothing

in the beginning was nothing but fire and ice

when they came together, they made a sound

from that sound, everything else was born

sound is a horse: you can ride it where you want to go

Vanir creation myth

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This is the Truth...
This is the sacrificial horse
Whose head is the dawn
Whose eye is the sun
Whose breath is the wind
And from whose open mouth
Blazes the cosmic fire.
In truth, this is the horse of sacrifice
Whose body is Time.

The Upanishads

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The House of the Hare

At the time I was four years old
I went to glean with the women,
Working the way they told;
My eyes were blue like blue-bells,
Lighter than oats my hair;
I came from the house of the Haldanes
Of work and thinking and prayer
To the God who is crowned with thorn,
The friend of the Boar and the Bear,
But oh when I went from there,
In the corn, in the corn, in the corn,
I was married young to a hare!
We went to kirk on the Sunday
And the Haldanes did not see
That a Haldane had been born
To run from the Boar and the Bear,
And the thing had happened to me
The day that I went with the gleaners,
The day that I built the corn-house,
That is not built with prayer.
For oh I was clean set free,
In the corn, in the corn, in the corn,
I had lived three days with the hare!

Naomi Mitchison

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The Good Shepherd

Because he would not abandon the flock for a lost sheep
after the others had bedded down for the night,
he turned back, searched the thickets and gullies.
Sleepless, while the flock dozed in the morning mist
he searched the pastures up ahead. Winter nearing,
over wool heavy with brambles, ropes of muddy ice,
he did not abandon the lost sheep, even when the snows came.

Still, I knew there was only a thin line
between the good shepherd and the butcher.
How many lambs had put their heads between the shepherd's knees,
closed their eyes, offering their neck to the knife?
Familiar-the quick thuds of the club doing its work.
More than once at night I saw the halo coming.
I ran like a deer and hid among rocks,
or I crawled under a bush, my heart in thorns.

During the day I lived my life in clover
watching out for the halo.
I swore on the day the good shepherd catches hold,
trying to wrestle me to the ground and bind my feet,
I will buck like a ram and bite like a wolf,
although I taste the famous blood
I will break loose! I will race under the gates of heaven,
back to the mortal fields, my flock, my stubbled grass and mud.

Stanley Moss

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The Green Man

Like antlers, like veins of the brain the birches
Mark patterns of mind on the red winter sky;
‘I am thought of all plants,’ says the Green Man,
‘I am thought of all plants,’ says he.

The hungry birds harry the last berries of rowan
But white is her bark in the darkness of rain;
‘I rise with the sap,’ says the Green Man,
‘I rise with the sap,’ says he.

The ashes are clashing their boughs like sword-dancers,
Their black buds are tracing wild faces in the clouds;
‘I come with the wind,’ says the Green Man,
‘I come with the wind,’ says he.

The alders are rattling as though ready for battle
Guarding the grove where she waits for her lover;
‘I burn with desire,’ says the Green Man,
‘I burn with desire,’ says he.

In and out of the yellowing wands of the willow
The pollen-bright bees are plundering the catkins;
‘I am honey of love,’ says the Green Man,
‘I am honey of love,’ says he.

The hedges of quick are thick with may blossom
As the dancers advance on the leaf-covered King;
‘It’s off with my head,’ says the Green Man,
‘It’s off with my head,’ says he.

Green Man becomes grown man in flames of the oak
As its crown forms his mask and its leafage his features;
‘I speak through the oak,’ says the Green Man,
‘I speak through the oak,’ says he.

The holly is flowering as hayfields are rolling
Their gleaming long grasses like waves of the sea;
‘I shine with the sun,’ says the Green Man,
‘I shine with the sun,’ says he.

The hazels are rocking the cups of their nuts
As the harvesters shout when the last sheaf is cut;
‘I swim with the salmon,’ says the Green Man,
‘I swim with the salmon,’ says he.

The globes of the grapes are robing with bloom
Like the hazes of autumn, like the Milky Way’s stardust;
‘I am crushed for your drink,’ says the Green Man,
‘I am crushed for your drink,’ says he.

The aspen drops silver of leaves on earth’s salver
And the poplars shed gold on the young ivy flowerheads;
‘I have paid for your pleasure,’ says the Green Man,
‘I have paid for your pleasure,’ says he.

The reedbeds are flanking in silence the islands
Where meditates Wisdom as she waits and waits;
‘I have kept her secret,’ says the Green Man,
‘I have kept her secret,’ says he.

The bark of the elder makes whistles for children
To call to the deer as they rove over the snow;
‘I am born in the dark,’ says the Green Man,
‘I am born in the dark,’ says he.

William Anderson
[this poem he believes was communicated by the Green Man himself]

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when the days of my childhood were dark
the night-time shone
with visions and wonders
rapt and reshaped by a force
from the old tales
proud and eager, gay and sad
solemn, skittish, wise and mad
burning rage and bounding laughter
Borolin - Borolin in the green wood rising

and I dreamed that I
was flying high
above the green world
above the green wood
like a bird
in every furred and feathered life
in every stem and every leaf
I felt the green strength surging
like a swelling tide
Borolin - Borolin in the green wood rising

lion that paces the green shade
uttering green
that roars forth the flowers
lashing his sides with the sting
of the lightning
ancient, ageless, ever young
the green youth, the new-crowned king,
the brisk young buck and the hopeful lover
Borolin - Borolin in the green wood rising

and I dreamed that I
was flying high
above the green world
above the green wood
like a bird
in every furred and feathered life
in every stem and every leaf
I felt the green strength surging
like a swelling tide
Borolin - Borolin in the green wood rising

soul of the woods and the fields
the cool soft dusk
and the burning day
pacing the world as a green thought
formed out of fire
the thought that runs through the screens and the wires
the crackling life that lashes the spires
the fire that informs both the made and the maker
Borolin - Borolin in the cities, rising…


Claire Jordan
[describes something which happened to my assistant Dee, not to me]

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To Juan at the Winter Solstice

There is one story and one story only
That will prove worth your telling,
Whether as learned bard or gifted child;
To it all lines or lesser guards belong
That startle with their shining
Such common stories as they stray into.

Is it of trees you tell, their months and virtues,
Of strange beasts that beset you,
Of birds that croak at you the Triple will?
Or of the Zodiac and how slow it turns
Below the Boreal Crown,
Prison of all true kings that ever reigned?

Water to water, ark again to ark,
From woman back to woman:
So each new victim treads unfalteringly
The never altered circuit of his fate,
Bringing twelve peers as witness
Both to this starry rise and starry fall.

Or is it of the Virgin's silver beauty,
all fish below the thighs?
She in left hand bears a leafy quince;
When with her right she crooks a finger, smiling,
How may the King hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?

Much snow is falling, winds roar hollowly,
The owl hoots from the elder,
Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup:
Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses
There is one story and one story only.

Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling,
Do not forget what flowers
The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the long ninth wave,
Her sea-blue eyes were wild.
But nothing promised that is not performed.

Robert Graves

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The Children of Cerridwen

We came then
The last children of Cerridwen
Daughters of light and darkness
Sons of death

We sought your presence on the wild hills of the north
But in the loneliness
We found you not
We sought your presence in the light of the east
But in the mists of dawn
We discerned you not
We sought your presence beneath the sun of the south
But where shadows shrink
We could not see your face
We sought your presence where the winds sleep in the west
But in the silence
We did not hear your voice.

O Mother of Mystery,
Child of my vision and daughter of my dream
Long have I sought you my soul’s sister
Thou goal of my desire
When passion sleeps
I longed for thee
Where death was near
I pined for thee
And when the hot breath of the hound was upon my heel
I longed for that last consummation
Surrender, death and ecstasy are all thy gifts
And teeth tearing flesh

I am the hare, which leaps for thee beneath the moon
I am the fish, which glistens for thee beneath the water
And when at last
In the dark beneath the trees
In a tremor of stillness I felt your hand upon me
I knew no other God nor Goddess too
For all was you

Traditional ?? - this version from Wicca The Old Religion in the New Age by Vivianne Crowley

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Hanes Taliesin

Primary chief bard am I to Elphin,
And my original country is the region of the summer stars;
Idno and Heinin called me Merddin,
At length every king will call me Taliesin.

I was with my Lord in the highest sphere,
On the fall of Lucifer into the depth of hell:
I have borne a banner before Alexander;
I know the names of the stars from north to south;
I have been on the galaxy at the throne of the Distributor;
I was in Canaan when Absalom was slain;
I conveyed the Divine Spirit to the level of the vale of Hebron;
I was in the court of Don before the birth of Gwdion.
I was instructor to Eli and Enoc;
I have been winged by the genius of the splendid crosier;
I have been loquacious prior to being gifted with speech;
I was at the place of the crucifixion of the merciful Son of God
I have been three periods in the prison of Arianrod;
I have been the chief director of the work of the tower of Nimrod
I am a wonder whose origin is not known.

I have been in Asia with Noah in the ark,
I have seen the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra;
I have been in India when Roma was built,
I am now come here to the remnant of Troia.

I have been with my Lord in the manger of the ass;
I strengthened Moses through the water of Jordan;
I have been in the firmament with Mary Magdalene;

I have obtained the muse from the cauldron of Ceridwen;
I have been bard of the harp to Lleon of Lochlin.
I have been on the White Hill, in the court of Cynvelyn,
For a day and a year in stocks and fetters,
I have suffered hunger for the Son of the Virgin.
I have been fostered in the land of the Deity,
I have been teacher to all intelligences,
I am able to instruct the whole universe.
I shall be until the day of doom on the face of the earth;
And it is not known whether my body is flesh or fish.

Then I was for nine months
In the womb of the hag Ceridwen
I was originally little Gwion,
And at length I am Taliesin.

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Amergin's Charm

I am a stag: of seven tines,
I am a flood: across a plain,
I am a wind: on a deep lake,
I am a tear: the Sun lets fall,
I am a hawk: above the cliff,
I am a thorn: beneath the nail,
I am a wonder: among flowers,
I am a wizard: who but I
Sets the cool head aflame with smoke?

I am a spear: that roars for blood,
I am a salmon: in a pool,
I am a lure: from paradise,
I am a hill: where poets walk,
I am a boar: renowned and red,
I am a breaker: threatening doom,
I am a tide: that drags to death,
I am an infant: who but I
Peeps from the unhewn dolmen arch?


I am the womb: of every holt,
I am the blaze: of every hill,
I am the queen: of every hive,
I am the shield: of every head,
I am the grave: of every hope.

Robert Graves
[reconstructed from mediaeval Irish & Welsh variants]

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The Rune of St Patrick

The Faedh Fiada or The Cry of the Deer

At Tara in this fateful hour
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath,
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness,
All these I place,
By God's almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the powers of darkness.

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Stone and Fern

It is not that the sea lanes
Are too long, nor that I am not
Tempted by the birds' sightless

Roads, but that I have listened
Always to the voice of the stone,
Saying: Sit still, answer, say

Who you are. And I have answered
Always with the rooted fern,
Saying: We are the dying seed.

Leslie Norris

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Temps Perdu

I never may turn the loop of a road
   Where sudden, ahead, the sea is lying,
But my heart drags down with an ancient load -
   My heart, that a second before was flying.

I never behold the quivering rain -
   And sweeter the rain than a lover to me -
But my heart is wild in my breast with pain;
   My heart, that was tapping contentedly.

There's never a rose spreads new at my door
   Nor a strange bird crosses the moon at night
But I know I have known its beauty before,
   And a terrible sorrow along with the sight.

The look of a laurel tree birthed for May
   Or a sycamore bared for a new November
Is as old and as sad as my furtherest day -
   What is it, what is it, I almost remember?

Dorothy Parker

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There exists something that fits nowhere

There exists something that fits nowhere
and yet is in no way remarkable
and yet is decisive
and yet is outside it all.
There exists something which is seen just when it is not visible
for then it is mistaken (like silence) for something else.

See the waves under the sky. Storm is surface
and storm our way of seeing.
(What do I care for the waves or the seventh wave.)
There is an emptiness between the waves:
Look at the sea. Look at the stones of the field.
There is an emptiness between the stones:
they did not break loose - they did not throw themselves here,
They lie there and exist - a part of the rock sheath.
So make yourself heavy - make use of your dead weight,
let yourself break, let yourself be thrown away, fall,
shipwrecked on the rock!
(What do I care about the rock.)

There are universes, suns and atoms.
There is knowledge, carefully built on strong points.
There is knowledge, unprotected, built on insecure positions.
There is an emptiness between universes, suns and atoms.
(What do I care about universes, suns and atoms.)
There is a second viewpoint on everything
in this double life.

There is peace beyond all.
There is peace beyond all.
There is peace inside all.
Concealed in the hand.
Concealed in the pen.
Concealed in the ink.
I feel peace everywhere.
I smell peace behind everything.
I see and hear peace inside everything.
Monotonous peace beyond everything.
(What do I care about peace.)

Gunnar Ekelöf, trans. Robert Bly

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Druid Prayer for the Newly Dead

May your journey to the Summerlands, the Isles of the Blessed, to the heart of the God/dess, to the land of freedom and splendour, be swift and sure. You are blessed, you are blessed, you are blessed.

We ask that the blessing of the Spirits of the Tribe and of the Ancestors, of Time and of Place and of the Journey be with you.
We ask that the blessing of the Spirits of North and South, East and West be with you.
We ask that you might be blessed with fire and with water, with earth and with air and with Spirit.
We ask for the blessing of the Lord and Lady of the Animals and the Woods, the mountains and the streams,
And we ask that the blessing of the Uncreated One, of the Created Word, and of the Spirit that is the Inspirer, be always with you.

By the beauty of the fields, the woods and the sea, by the splendour that is set upon all that is, we send you our love and blessings. Go safely, go well, go surely. Our hearts are with you. There is no separation.

from, posted w. re. the September 11th terrorist attacks

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God is alive

God is alive. Magic is afoot.
God is alive. Magic is afoot.
God is afoot. Magic is alive.
Alive is afoot.
Magic never died.

God never sickened.
Many poor men lied.
Many sick men lied.
Magic never weakened.
Magic never hid.
Magic always ruled.
God is afoot.
God never died.

God was ruler
though his funeral lengthened.
Though his mourners thickened
Magic never fled.
Though his shrouds were hoisted
the naked God did live.
Though his words were twisted
the naked Magic thrived.
Though his death was published
round and round the world
the heart did not believe.

Many hurt men wondered.
many struck men bled.
Magic never faltered.
Magic always led.
Many stones were rolled
but God would not lie down.
Many wild men lied.
many fat men listened.
Though they offered stones
Magic still was fed.
Though they locked their coffers
God was always served.

Magic is afoot. God is afoot.
Alive is afoot. Alive is in command.
Many weak men hungered.
Many strong men thrived.
Though they boasted solitude
God was at their side.
Nor the dreamer in his cell,
nor the captain on the hill.
Magic is alive.
Though his death was pardoned
round and round the world
the heart would not believe.

Though laws were carved in marble
they could not shelter men.
Though altars built in parliaments
they could not order men.
Police arrested Magic
and Magic went with them
for Magic loves the hungry.

But Magic would not tarry.
It moves from arm to arm.
It would not stay with them.
Magic is afoot.
It cannot come to harm.
It rests in an empty palm.
It spawns in an empty mind.
But Magic is no instrument.
Magic is the end.

Many men drove magic
but Magic stayed behind
Many strong men lied.
They only passed through Magic
and out the other side.
Many weak men lied.
They came to God in secret
and though they left him nourished
they would not say who healed.
Though mountains danced before them
they said that God was dead.
Though his shrouds were hoisted
the naked God did live.

This I mean to whisper to my mind.
This I mean to laugh within my mind.
This I mean my mind to serve till
service is but Magic
moving through the world,
and mind itself is Magic
coursing through the flesh,
and flesh itself is Magic
dancing on a clock,
and time itself the Magic Length of God.

Leonard Cohen

This poem was famously set to music by Buffy St Marie. The original text by Leonard Cohen, from his book Beautiful Losers, was not broken into lines but was otherwise exactly as shown here, except that the marked lines read "Magic is afoot. God rules. Alive is afoot. Alive is in command." I have gone with Buffy St Marie's revision here, because IMO it reads much better than the original.

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[On the subject of whether or not to believe in magic]
Them as believes nothing is seldom disappointed: but they do miss a lot of action.

Nicholas Stuart Gray
[mid 20th C children's fantasy author & playwright]

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