I Weave with Words

[I’m reading Max Dashu’s amazing book Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk Religion,700-1100]

I weave with words

Letters skein across the page
like the wild flight of geese in autumn,
letters turned into words
on the distaff of inspiration,
trailing ideas
ready for the loom
of the mind.

I weave with words.

Dangerous am I
as the weaving women of old
discrete words becoming incantations,
the singing of thought
and perception into form,
altering the reality of the page,
from the blank white leaf
into the mottled sheet
with images drawn out
and curling under each other.

I weave with words.

By setting out the warp and woof
of line and length,
that which moved me into the
gilded light of flow and form,
the dark recesses of passion
impassive before the shuttle
thrown back and forth line on line,
the pen creating
the garment of imagination,
the tapestry of alliteration,
metaphor and rhythm
maybe only I can hear
as I sway at the paper loom
and dream aloud
for others.

I weave with words.

Word -weaving
from my word hoard,
language neutral until
contextualised in pattern,
shaping ideas into form,
leaving no dangling threads
to unravel my inspired thoughts,
cutting the last thread
at just the right place.



Emerge from the fog.
Merge with the mist.
Appear in dream.
Disappear at dawn.

if the call has been heard,
if the presence will be heeded,
if the images can be held.

Waking from the wandering of sleep,
rising from the repose of night,
aware of the new day
away drift the words
given as the lights went out.

The head goes down,
the eyelids close,
the body refuses
to respond to the
desire, need, demand
to record the words,
capture the idea,
harness the images
before they drift away
slip beyond the gate of memory,
lost to the dark
of restless sleep,
fretful waking.

Cauldron Keeper

You bide by the cauldron,
insistent the feast
must be prepared,
and be ready to share.

You brook no excuses,
accept no lame reason,
the cauldron might be empty,
or contents ignored

You bide by the cauldron,
insistent the feast
must be prepared,
and be ready to share.

You remain vigilant,
missing no opportunity
to challenge and rebuke
under-worked ideas ill-formed.

You bide by the cauldron,
insistent the feast
must be prepared,
and be ready to share.

You demand absolutely,
that through the struggle
beauty eventually develops
as order from chaos.

You bide by the cauldron,
insistent the feast
must be prepared,
and be ready to share.

You relent only,
in the mystery of creation,
when words emerge patterned,
and ready to share.

GM Words


For some reason today I began to think about the whole issue of GM words, that is Grammatically Modified words. Words that used to be one sort of word, usually a noun that have been altered to become a verb.

One of the first I encountered one day over a decade ago whilst strolling around PCWorld. I was looking at the accessories area and came across ‘a mousing surface’. I just went nuts. I was fine with mouse mat, since that was something my computer mouse (and I’m fine with calling it a mouse since it looks sort of like one) could scurry about on, but ‘mousing surface’! Well, when I wondered did mouse become a verb? Whose idea was it to modify is grammatical framework?

In my horror I began to conjugate the verb ‘to mouse’:

I mouse; I am mousing; I moused; I was mousing; I shall mouse; I have moused; I had moused; I shall have moused; I might mouse; I might have moused . . . . you get the idea.

Your feline companion may be a mouser. But I doubt you would say to a friend that last night your cat mouses or  went out and moused, any more than that he went on a mousing rampage.

It might be that I am a lexicographical Luddite, I grammatical throw-back, but I do have a hard time with GM words, and I mourn the attempts to drive adverbs to extinction. There are times when writing poetry that I have tinkered with a word or an idea because I needed a nuance that was not available in English. Sometimes English is a bit limiting. There is one word for love. I love grilled artichokes and I love my partner. Clearly the same word, but let’s face it not the same quality of affection is being expressed. So, there are times when I needs must and I am emboldened.

Never, however, do I desire or anticipate that anyone else would use the word. It would not be appropriate in any context other than the one for which I crafted it. GM words, on the other hand become part of our everyday vocabulary. We do it sometimes with adjectives and turn them into nouns, the modifier becomes the modified.

Then there are also words whose meaning, though remaining the same part of speech, change in such a way that it is no longer rooted as they once were. Not all such words make me feel like I’ve heard nails run over a blackboard. See, I still remember chalkboards, dust, smeared words illegible from the back row of the class. However, two such words for me are interdict/interdiction and anathema/anathematize. Look up the original meanings and see how they relate to how one uses them now. I was trained as a Mediaevalist, who also studied Latin and Greek, so those two words particularly make me cringe.

Now hold on, I am well aware that new things, experiences and realities require new words. But they require new words, not recycled old ones. Language evolves. It is not stagnant, but dynamic. I have no problem with expanding the dictionary, it gives lexicographers work and writers more options. That is more akin to me of exploring the rainforest and finding a new species that needs a name. But for me there is a vast difference between that and taking a perfectly useful word and adapting to increase its yield in usage units instead of taking the time discover a new and wondrous word that will save the language from starvation.

GM words – for me they are a step too far, and I will boycott them in my writing in favour of those words that have maintained their integrity in form and meaning, or news ones that speak with vitality and vigour about the world in which I live and about which I write.

Neither Jam nor ‘Jerusalem’

This evening will be one of the one or two times a year that, as vice-president of my local WI, I will run the monthly meeting. It is not an onerous responsibility as the women are known to me after nearly three years and some are my closest friends.

The challenge for me is not running the meeting, but that I don’t sing ‘Jerusalem’. I quite confidently la la my way through standing facing the 60 or so members, but I can’t sing the words. And the reason is that words have power in my personal metaphysical/spiritual/religious understanding. I do not believe you should just sing words to any hymn or say the words to any prayer just to be polite. It used to cause me great discomfort when in church I’d be standing next to someone, even now and then a clergyperson, saying one of the creeds and knowing that they did not believe several of the statements – statements that men killed each other in early church councils to have included or excluded. If I know the music to a hymn and I am in a situation where hymning is happening then I will hum along, and once recently I carefully altered one or two words so I could join in, no one around me noticed, but it was able to join in a bit.

The problem with ‘Jerusalem’ as a hymn/song is that if you really pay attention to the words, and a quick survey of the other members I know well indicates that they do not think about them or pay attention, is that this hymn is asking for something quite specific to occur in and to our ‘green and pleasant land.’ First of all it seems to me generally to be a call to desecrate green space in favour of cities. This is something that as a Druid I can’t sanction. And secondly, is the stated desire to build a particular city, Jerusalem, which would bequeath nothing but conflict and strife in our country. Jerusalem is one of the most contested cities on the planet and has been the sight of more bloodshed, destruction and death over centuries than any other metropolis in the world.

In the way I understand the power of word and intention in language to seek such a thing for this country is unwise, misguided and dangerous. Simply because Blake wrote it and it has been such an important song over the years doesn’t make it all right to carelessly sing it.

I’m sure there are those who would say; 1) she’s over reacting, that it’s just a song; 2) get over it and sing with the ladies for crying out loud; 3) she just doesn’t understand.

But sorry, this is one of my most deeply held principles: Language has the power to shape energy, change or control minds, alter the course of history. Further, since what we say aloud can’t be unsaid, we are responsible for our words, though we can’t control what others choose to do with them, look what happens to politicians when they misspeak, which is the reason it is wise to be prudent, essential to be cautious.

One of the new ways the WI is attempting to reach out to bring in younger members is by saying: The WI isn’t just jam and ‘Jerusalem’ any more. For me it is neither and never has been, as I’m not really a jam person either – it’s way too sweet for me – bring on the pickles!