Come a’cuin

when ‘ner he come
for prayer untold
to hear the moon
forsake the sea,
and blind the fire
to need of when;
breath deep, my son
and you will sense the ‘cuin.

the hourglass breaks
and endless sand
sifts hopeless bound
through clutched despair
to gather up
felled jeweled tears;
dance quick, my son
and you will know the ‘cuin.

shadows betray
this Moonless night
to distort anew
chanting heartsteps
leading upward
in silent clamor;
spin about, my son
and you will see the ‘cuin.

when roaring din
of lost starfall
detracts from dreams
in patchwork hues
of spirits claim
on proud soul’s view;
then call out, my lad
and you will touch the ‘cuin.

Parallel tracks
of circle time
balance within
the measured tread
when chaos seeks
echoing silence;
wish profound, little man
and you will claim the ‘cuin.

Published in: on February 21, 2007 at 9:44 pm  Comments (1)  

No Name

My steps always slow a bit when I wander past — you know, that house on Earl Lane. It is medium far from my new digs, of course; but I always find parking by the playground and time to amble by — just in case she is about — or in — never quite sure of the phrase. One might think me a hapless swain or tabloid reporter with my frequency — but others come too. We just smile, and nod — never exchanging a word — no need. Either you understand or you don’t. If you know her name you come. Simple.

I first heard it when I crossed the street to admire her bed of flowers — laughing friends of sunlight when other yards were drab and brown — forlorn. I laughed and whistled to a caterpillar pulsing there — strange — it was autumn! No matter — the flowers waved back at me in rhythm and sang her name — “Anashee” — I thought I saw her shadow at the window. Another time I saw her at the market — the outdoor one. Made sense! I knew it was she — her slender staff tapping a dance on the stones — silver plaited hair entwined with scarlet yarn. The teaming, surging crowd jostled each other and stalls shook from clutching, clamoring hands — but she stood alone — no one near. It was as if she was not really there — yet as if no one else was — a space and dream apart. I drew close and I knew she smiled though I never saw her face — never have. But she spoke to me — well sort of. My heart sang a whispered, “Anashee.” You only have to hear it once — and you remember. Silly thing to say!

Others say they have seen her by the river — always on the other side — but no one can say exactly when — or time of day — just when they were caught up in some moment of joy or youthful play — look up — away — know that she is there. I haven’t though — perhaps I lack a sense of awe or wonder — perchance I don’t need to see her. After all — I know her name! I could find her if I chose of course — just clear my mind of jumbled thoughts and imagined needs — and let my soul guide my feet. It is enough for now to revel in the trail of whispers she leaves behind — prancing grass and chattering leaves — and raindrops pooling in mirrors of light — and seeds contenting themselves with tomorrow — and strangers touching hands — and trees asking to be hugged. Where she passes time ripples a bit and I look back at where I will someday be — a child again — I hope.

There are rumors that she is a witch — couldn’t be — but people need a word — never said with rancor or fear — just something that pops into their head — those who don’t hear her name. Don’t know why people need a label — why not just accept? Someone said she was from another place — didn’t specify — just a statement of fact. Where she is — is now — must be, I guess. We are from another place — not hers. Oh, I understand! “Anashee” is not her name! It is a vibration of the current I feel when standing here — this empty lot covered in thorns — no address on the curb — only a twisting path through untended grass. She walked her once — I know — it was enough. For when a wizard passes flowers grow, the say. And now I will trace that path forever — and the cottage will return — and the fountain gurgle over ageless stones — and the windows cast back a reflection of another time — never lost. Come sit here a spell with me. Sing of Anashee. Sit.

But sing.

Published in: on February 21, 2007 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Sakin’el-2 Tegsh’n All

So you would come hither to Sakin’el,
my ever child with wondrous yearning eyes,
and seek the myst’ry of M’lady Tegsh –
aye, do as you must – prepare.

The breath of Shea sighs
through the reeds of time
to evernow in spirit call
— found in thee as Tegsh’n all.

First look in the corners of laughing halls,
my doubting friend whose quest for peace relies
on finding a balance ‘tween self and divine –
Nay, you will never find her there.

Try the Heart of Henge or Gift of Stir,
my dreaming youth whose confused fantasies
do not prepare for the whisp’ring Silent Breeze –
but please keep them evermore.

The breath of Shea sighs
through the reeds of time
to evernow in spirit call
— found in thee as Tegsh’n all.

Sit with closed eyes on the Parapet porch,
my weary crone and elder whose age belies
the wisdom of thorns and often silly joy –
the Gwendydd harp will guide – implore.

Listen to the Aeolian Harp within and near,
my gifted companion with memories
of Currents and Sparks of Everbe –
that caress the evening star.

The breath of Shea sighs
through the reeds of time
to evernow in spirit call
— found in thee as Tegsh’n all.

Sought she will ignore your prayer and plea,
my shadow reflection of eternities
to which we are but Bearers of Light –
that answer now – whatever for?

Just heed the vibrant song of innocence,
my oh my, that She sings here and plays
with any who endeavor to understand –
that by living we love restore.

The breath of Shea sighs
through the reeds of time
to evernow in spirit call
— found in thee as Tegsh’n all.

Let your spirit breathe out in faith and being,
my hope and heart and hand to simply please
each brother who attends here with me –
as I sing beside Her open door.

Published in: on October 26, 2006 at 4:14 pm  Comments (2)  

Sakin’el-1 Manor Morning


The sun marches down the crippled oak and sets the silent font afire,
as the glowing glade echos the cheer of friends called to Epona’s watch.
A silent breeze carries forth the ivy whisper and the flower’s prayer,
into the mists of yesterday that disperse this new day’s perfume.

Diamond dew drops do distill and join the twinkling of the pool,
and birth strong song of hidden bird and glint of fluttered fairy wings.
The sighs you hear are but Tegsh at blessed rest from ancient tears,
and the waiting patience of Haven’s halls and embracing heart of Henge.

Revealed in the gentle light are mem’ried footsteps of sunset prayer
that yesterday’s joining will gift today with rebirth songs of joy.
The dawn is a message gentle of the glory of thee and all,
bound in companioned trust and simple faith that I can share today.

Sakin’el is alive, my child, as surely as my passion sings
of laughing stones and whispering flames and watching falcon eyes.
As you place a pebble in the fountain of hand cycled mirth
you herald the promise of morning and fuel the currents of time.

Arise and dance, little one, to the lilting tune of Everbe;
skip o’er the roots of shadow fears and extend a hand to me.
The rhythm has started with the golden pulse of Earth and stars
and awaits the voices of innocence to proclaim the rising sun.

Published in: on October 26, 2006 at 4:11 pm  Comments (1)  

Sample Story-2 The Reeds

Kiyan appeared lost in deep meditation. His corpulent frame crested the grassy hummock beneath his folded legs and his open hands rested upon his knees. His eyes were closed, but that may have been to shield from the glint of morning rays off the still waters of the marsh. His lips were parted as if in a sigh, the better to draw in the blend of sweet blossom perfume and the fetid waft of decay. His ears reached out to the cacophony of birdcalls, insect hum and scurried scratching of the small. But part of his yearning senses were wary of the possible approach of strangers. Not that they would not be welcome. After all, he had added damp wood chips to his cooking fire such that even now smoke rose finger- like to the low clouds. His sword, staff and fresh sapling now stood in a lashed tripod of welcome in the way of his ancestors. The partially drawn blade warned of preparedness, but also bade strangers to lay their own weapons within the stance and enter unafraid.

No one came.

This did not surprise the Gusari, as most preferred the longer road to Thuringia that avoided the unpredictable marshlands. Such a chosen passage across the barren steppes was quite and safe, but somehow devoid of life and awareness. This damp arena teamed with life, but danger too of snake and hidden bog. Also here were hidden areas of delight! “I would prefer to be alone here in adventure than in dreary companionship in the dust,” mused the aging knight. He marveled again how the Sanok River found birth in the high snows of the Alps to the west, tumbled in anger down impassable crevasse, slowed to pleasant feeding of small peasant worked fields, to die here in the marsh only 60 miles complete. But even here was found life anew. Succulent frog legs would provide a uniquely anticipated repast.

Kiyan was in no haste to arrive early for his meeting with the Landgrave. His time was better spent in prayerful appreciation here than in the squalling marketplace. True, the need was greater there, but occasionally he fed his own internal calling instead. “I do not have to pray alone,” he whispered aloud. “I will call upon the spirits of the wind.”

Near the camp grew a stretch of stiffened reed. Red reed they were called in response to varied rusty hues that hinted of unseen minerals in the earth. The strands seemed identical to the casual eye, but experience told that each was special in girth, wall thickness and flexibility. With practiced hand, Kiyan cut across the vertical grain with an angled slash of scramasax blade. The severed ends were quickly bound into a switch of spiny points. The afternoon breeze breathed warm in anticipation and growing intensity.

Each hollow reed became a flute that sang in pitch from moan to whistle, dependent on its special nature and drift of the wind. The switch beat and swished against shield, mailed mantle and buckskin thigh in mimicked rhyme. “Wee-oh-tick-whomp. Shish-woo-plock-ooh. Sheenickmooree.”
His is soul began to sing.

Published in: on October 26, 2006 at 4:02 pm  Comments (1)  

Sample Story-1 Lightbirth

Kiyan did not know that he was chosen, nor did anyone in the village cast a pebble in the Fountain Bowls, or add a prayer to the wisp-smoke of Nettle Flame. The birds knew, though – and ceased their chattered symphony when he passed. The scurrying smalls understood and climbed on dawn-lit rocks to watch – and wait. Scattered leaves of fall’s sorrow shook off the kiss of frost to swirl in dance and settle in eddies of guiding paths. “Awake – awake,” pulsed the life-flow in each man’s chest – blood and God-speak and remembering. Each by each, by smile and nod – shuffling feet and close-drawn cloak – they withdrew to silence. Kiyan entered Vigil. It had begun.
The bound ritual had no name, but those from the southern inland sea called the day Brumalia. Yet their calling did not make it so –- did not command the ritual — the sense of birth came from the stars. Know that the lad had not been taught the ritual, for this then would require belief. He was chosen because he knew. He knew because he was chosen. Such is the nature of the Day – such is the way of Light.
It took full day and dusk to prepare. Only special trees held a ‘nestle tip’, still pale green in Spring’s blessing – never grown – just held. The fire would be of oak alone – of branches retrieved from the lairs of wolf and bear. The tinder was of feather-down, caught in the pricking of the Hawthorne. The pit was hollowed within new earth brought with the Summer’s rain. The passion was his alone. The yearning came from all.
Within the shallow pit the raked fire reduced the twigs to glowing coals – gleaming eyes of souls unknown. The carpet of fir tips both hid this dying pain and gave up their seed of life and hope. The mist pulsed low above the bed thus formed – heat to sustain – an enclave alone in all the world – a haven suspended in evertime. Late snow swirled aside to fall in ridges and shield the wind. The updraft drew and caressed a hundred falcon wings to guard and protect the coming. The boy lay naked. The night became still in the glasp of ice – and the world as known before ended. Only in this singular spot was there life and warmth and defiance –- waiting in gentle slumber. From the simple fire-bed would tomorrow come.
The first rays of Godshine touched the toes of morning. Kiyan rose as if with the whispers of the waning embers – tiny puffs of earth-breath about his feet. It was thus that he greeted the new day – one person for all – one statement of being – one claim on creation.
The Sun laughed. Another year was granted. Another man was born. It was done – begun.

Prepare yourself, my child. Next year you may be called.

Published in: on October 26, 2006 at 4:01 pm  Comments (1)  

Strum of the Gusli

The instrument on my knees adds singular notes to blend with the song of birds, brook and whispering leaf. I call to the shifting forest shadows and they sing back to me of the passing faun, the patient spider and a secret cache of honey. But the instrument can also produce a throbbing pulse, a strumming cadence to match the heartbeat of the canyon, with the almost silent power of the jutting cliff and the shrieking caress of the waving fern. My fingers, less nimble sure than in long decades past, evoke the sounds of nature and communicate by prayer, thoughts I cannot voice. I ponder, though, that perchance it is nature that plays at a Gusli like lute in the heavens, for does not every culture and tribe have an instrument both simple and profound that combines the pulse of quite passion and the melody of imagination? Within God’s lyric poem what is the instrument; this box of polished wood and strings, this wandering merchant and entertainer, or the forest and land of Mother Earth?

I am a Gusari. I am one who plays the Gusli. That is everything, and nothing. This mark is not a pendant that I can display nor coin that I can trade, though I am certainly a merchant. It is not a title nor position, but Princes listen to my counsel and entrust me with messages of state. I am not an actor not trevere’, but I sing, and tell stories with magic effect and moral design. I am a stranger from afar but am asked to speak to simple problems in many lands. I have the gift of absolute freedom and the curse of the prophets. I did not ask for this cloak. I will wear it ’till I die. Listen to my song.

Published in: on October 26, 2006 at 3:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Gusari Mystique

Gusari Mystique
Gusari (Goo sa ree like nursery)

This is a term that can be roughly applied to traveling performers in Eastern Europe, Slavic States and Western Russia during the 8th to 17th centuries, and equates to the Celtic “bard” in function. However, there are many important distinctions that could affect the use of this title or label, especially for SCA Bardic competition. There is evidence of their presence and influence in Saxony, Selesia, Moravia, Austria, Hungary, Kiev, Novgorod, and all southern realms.
1. It is a slang term of mixed origin that encompassed performance functions from many cultures. Specific references can be found for:
• Anyone playing the Gusli, a Russian lute type instrument.
• A traveler from afar, possibly originating in Qusar by the Caspian Sea and part of the “Silk Route.”
• A political satirist of the type associated with inciting the people of Kiev to free the Prince of Polotsk (circa 1225).
• A person who combined story telling with legerdemain in performance as distinct from traveling actors, jugglers, fire-eaters, etc. They did not always sing, but often combined story, recitation, and song according to the needs of the audience or setting. In this way they are linked with the European treverè tradition.
• Synonymous in the Novgorod area with the “skomorokhi.”
2. During the formation in Europe of the unified Germanic Duchies and the Growing power of the Lombards in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Gusari were chastised and outlawed because of their outspoken political parodies. Those who could keep their mouths in check became, Jongleurs (Juggler), Magika, Travere’, and Skomorokhi. The latter shift didn’t work out, however, because of later persecution by the churches in the 15th-17th centuries in Russia. Apparently, speaking the truth out load was not appreciated.
3. The Gusari is linked to the concept of the “baffoon” which inaccurately translates as “clown” in English culture. Thus a person dressed in harlequin type garb in 12th century Moravia would have acted and performed differently than one in English or French court.
4. Actors in the Gusari tradition performed short skits rather than traditional plays. They often substituted the names of local officials and powerful merchants into the skits for parody, humor, and political purposes.
5. The Gusari are based on a merchant tradition more than a religious one, though the later sift to skomorokhi took on unfortunate religious relationships. They traveled from Turkic (silk route) lands north to Saxony and West to France. Southern influence is lost in Islamic expansion. The collapse of the Khazar Empire seems to have severed any link to Caspian area. However:
• 1999 background for the building of a gas line from the Caspian to Romania refers to following the “Trade Route” established by the Gusari.
• In 1998, two students accused of smuggling in Russian Georgia claimed protection under the “Gusari Law.” While no details were given it apparently had to do with ancient protection for the merchant class. The petition was denied because the accused could not prove direct personal ascendancy from the 12th century merchants.
6. Modern usage appears to be linked exclusively with the Gusli instrument, which is now far removed from the original 5 string ‘block ‘n strum’ instrument.

Anyone adopting an Eastern European or near Russian persona can rightly call themselves a Gusari if they tell stories, and use music, magic and other arts to entertain. Presentations are not restricted to lyric forms or Bard traditions. The appropriate term is “bylini”, which translates as “what happened.” Other mixed story/songs are called “starina”, which means “what is old.” The best term for this unique persona group is “umeltz”, which means “a versatile person.” Attempts to use satire and political parody in a medieval tradition will probably not be successful. Logical argument was also by parable and “Plato’s Dialectic” rather then syllogistic.

Note: Gusari is also a name for Japanese chain mail armor, which greatly complicates Internet research. Many of my links were developed through communication with the Slavic Interest League in Romania.

Published in: on October 26, 2006 at 3:56 pm  Comments (1)  

Preparation of the Journey


Pray come gather about the joining fire
and behold how the bright protected flames
flicker in the caress of approaching night,
and roar out in awe of sudden gusting
awareness of the approaching spirit.

“for you are alive – adept – centered,
protected, guided, driven by my presence.”

See strange shadows dance in symmetry
with the velvet strumming of Mother Earth
and vibrant song of a time-spun lyre.
Gather close round – about to sing and dream,
while tinkling embers fane warm your soul.

“for I can see your secret flame within,
and hear your lover’s special whispered name”

See in each new friend a mirror of being
who now fills in the words you did forget,
and shades your eyes from the glare of truth,
so that you can dance free of guilt and shame,
now reborne to the innocence of dawn.

“for these wise aging eyes will never dim
when you arrive with open hand and heart.”

Published in: on July 17, 2006 at 1:55 pm  Comments (2)