‘ You have known me since childhood; I am in you and you in me’ the deep voice, resonant like the bellow of a stag, seemed to reverberate in my bones, and I wasn’t bloody having it!
My experiences with the Christian god of Catholicism and my tense relationship with my father had put me off ever exploring ‘the god’. Even being brought up as a witch in Gardnerian Wicca hadn’t softened my attitude.
My High Priest was a great bloke but when we ‘Drew down the Sun’ and he stood resplendent in his antler headdress it didn’t touch my soul like the Goddess.
The Morrighan, the Virgin Mary, Freyja and Sekhmet, and Ma’at fired my working, my magick. In them, I could see myself, first as the maiden and then as the mother. I gravitated to their fierce beauty and gentle protection.
Even in my love life, I didn’t have much time for what I considered masculine energy. I had relationships with women and now, when I look back, there was still plenty of that old magick “polarity”, but I still denied the god into my life.
Now, at the age of 50, He had decided that this was going to change.
I’d been journeying to somewhere I call the Otherplace ever since I’d been called to a shamanic path by Freyja. This landscape had many secrets places and beings who had taught me and nourished me through the last 20 years. In a grove in the woods, there was a bonfire and lots of elvish dancers under the presided over by a man with great antlers. I steered well clear, no matter how much they shouted to me to join their dance.
When my wife and I decided we wanted to have a child together I reluctantly concluded that I was going to have to talk to the god. We were both women and I was going to need to somehow get in touch with the masculine. I went back to the clearing, this time no dancers whirled madly, and I was surprised to see a young guy who looked like he worked in a garden centre. He waved and gestured for me to sit on the grass next to him.
He was wearing utility trousers, you know, the ones with all the pockets and zips; the kind that you can turn into shorts if the weather picks up. His waistcoat was a matching green and also had numerous pockets. I noticed in his short, curly red hair, small budding horns.
He was very friendly, I told him about wanting to have a child.
“All you have to do is ask me”, he smiled. There was a pause. I realized all the implications of what I was saying, suddenly ‘just asking’ seemed very rash. He laughed. “When the time is right”.
And so I did ask him. And I got pregnant the first time at Samhain with a DIY insemination kit and my daughter was born at Litha. He delivered his promise in an astonishingly efficient way.
Still, this didn’t really address the issues I had with the god or clarify my ideas on energies and polarity.
Then eight years ago I started a relationship with a man. This was more difficult for the people around me than it was for me. After years of being in the ‘lesbian’ box, some people could just not compute. Was I straight now? Had I been straight all along?
To me, none of it mattered. I was me, I always had been and I’d always thought the labels just made other people feel safe, but they didn’t really describe me.
If I’d had some idea that being in a relationship with a man would be like something from tv, I was wrong. My partner is nurturing and kind, quiet and gentle. It got me thinking about that old idea of polarity.
And that’s when the god, or more precisely Herne the Hunter, started to show up.
First, in dreams, I’d catch a glimpse of him in the unlikely dream landscapes, broad antlers and big shoulders in the distance. Then more obvious in my meditations and my journeying until we got to the conversation that started this piece of writing.
And he is right, he’s been with me a long time. My favourite books as a child featured him as a character, I was an avid Robin of Sherwood fan at an age where my parents probably shouldn’t have let me watch it. I was fascinated by the half man-god, creature of the wildwood, lord of the green.
Herne himself is not an ancient god, which makes this all the more interesting. He’s perhaps an English version of Cernunnos; his roots in stories of real-life gamekeepers. He rides and heads the Wild Hunt, like Odin or Wotan worshipped by the Anglo Saxons. It seems fitting that it is this incarnation of the divine masculine which has spoken to me, I’m a storyteller, a poet, and a reader of the Anglo Saxon runes. I’m a mixture, a happy misfit, a shaman, witch, priestess, a lesbian, a ‘hasbian’, a bisexual, me. I know something doesn’t have to be old to be true, it doesn’t even have to be true to be real.
But I struggled to see how he was IN me.
After my initial denial, I started to feel what he meant. I am a person of action, I’m a doer, I don’t like to hang around. In my relationship, I’m the motivator, the seed idea person who gets things moving. My partner looks after us all while I lead us out on adventures.
This is a very simplified idea of polarity and really it’s a lot more subtle; a slightly different way to look at things. And I’m not denying any traditional feminine qualities either but now I see what Herne means. He is IN me, there’s a part of me that totally gets him, has the same urges.
I’ve never agreed with the traditional terminology of ‘male’ and ‘female’ and I’m glad the world is starting to see that these concepts limit us all. I’d never looked for it in my own personality though, never seen the god clearly in myself. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe, it’s elusive like the fox, hidden under layers of social programming. It’s also one of the things that makes my relationship with my partner so great. We fit together, regardless of our socially constructed genders.
So, here I am gearing up for a summer solstice ritual where I’m going to try to embody the god.
I’ve got a horned mask I’ve been working with since last Yule. I’m hoping that the mask will help me really let go of myself and open me up to his essence. I’m intrigued and scared; what if this energy is totally alien to me? What if it isn’t? I can’t decide what scares me more.
Will my body feel different? I’ve embodied the goddess in ritual and have found a feeling of being much bigger than my body. I’ve no idea if this will be the same. It’s an exploration of both an outer concept and an inner landscape.
I’ve got all the ‘props’, the incense, and the music to get me in the mood. I’ve got a terrible feeling it’s going to be easier than I imagine.