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HERCULES IN CELTIC COIN ART – MIS-INTERPRETATION OR RE-INTERPRETATION

The figure of Hercules/ Herakles is a common motif in Classical art. It features on many Greek and Roman coins and makes its way into Eastern Celtic coins too. It is quite easy to see the Celtic images simply as copies of varying skill. But on closer examination, it can be seen that, in fact, there is a divergence of not just style, but also imagery.

Firstly, however, it is important to remember that the figure of Herakles has a very long presence around the whole of the Mediterranean. The visual prototype of semi-divine hero who fights animals and monsters is perhaps earliest to emerge in the art of Mesopotamia, but it is likely to have a much older pedigree. It is one of the main templates for cultural- hero- protector- progenitor. It is related, to, but not identical with, the warrior-king archetype. That warrior-king type is clearly related to Sovereignty and the Right to Rule. It has to do with structure and order of society, supported by the warrior elite and priestly classes. Although Herakles is king of various territories throughout his life, his main exploits are those of a lone, outsider, wandering hero. The fact that he is half- god, half-human sets him aside as a liminal misfit. In fact, most of his tribulations arise from the antagonism between human and divine realms. Some Classical texts maintained that Herakles was already known to the Western Celts before contact with Greek or Roman cultures, and that he was considered a ‘First Ancestor’ figure. His adoption into Coin art is therefore wholly legitimate, even though a Classical representation tends to dominate. The loner-wild man- hero- protector is a figure that pervades myth and folklore. He tends to be immensely strong, cunning, but not the most intellectual of beings. He is fecund, violent, but a protector of family. He appears as Thor and The Dagda, where both these IE mythic types wield simple weapons, are of giant size, battle monsters and accrue a popular, likeable, bawdy nature. They are related to all sky/thunder/storm/fertility templates. Some believe that Vajrapani, the Tibetan protector yidam derives from a Herakles type, and that this also evolves into the fierce protector gods of the gateways of Chinese and Japanese Buddhist temples. They can be found in the sky-castle dwelling giants that later, more knightly heroes attempt to eradicate on their quests, ( a clear usurpation of the roles of earlier cultures by newer cultural sensibilities). The wild man tamed, or the wild man running wild, seem to be the issues being explored. Herakles himself is a complex, flawed figure, both protector/ progenitor and also destroyer. He is a summation of the difficulties of humans in wielding innate power. An ideal First Ancestor, in many respects.

It is surprising that Hercules/Herakles is not used more often at the moment as an example of fluid gender models. Depicted as the alpha male, all bulging testosterone and the like, Herakles took both male and female lovers and also spent time in a cross-dressing, gender swapping relationship.

1. I have put these images in a stylistic order, starting with those that follow Classical prototypes quite closely, then moving on to those that diverge towards more clearly Celtic forms. This in no way represents the actual chronology of the coins: Classical types were probably used for a variety of reasons, such as the availability of die cutters with Classical training, political or aspirational links to a Classical culture, and so on. This image shows a well-modelled relief figure, standing contraposto, right hand resting on a large wooden club, left arm bent at the elbow holding a lion skin. The Greek text of Classical coins is more or less precise. The only move towards Celtic abstraction here is the rather, (no doubt intentional), phallic head of the lion-skin

2. Another close copy of a Classical,original. The figure has less modelling and less definition, though the contraposto with hand on hip is still clear. The Greek lettering is still important, though some of the forms are showing more interest in pattern-making.

3. The Classical elements are still present here, but the artist is more interested in the curve of lines and an abstraction of forms. Much greater attention is given to the details of the club and the lion-skin. The letters become more integrated with the design, rather than simply giving a square frame to the figure. The club seems to be transforming into a fruiting branch, or a very knobbly club. The lion-skin is rendered as a three sets of pellets. Note also that there is much emphasis placed on the muscles of the upper torso and shoulders, whilst the legs are less important. The profile head is also moving away from a Classical profile, towards a more Celtic ‘staring eye’ type.

4. The figure here is greatly schematised. There is a clear celticisation of the head: it now has a big eye, a clear nose/mouth, spikey, warrior hair and a clearly depicted neck torc.

Breasts and shoulders are still emphasised. The lion-skin is now just a stylised drape over the left arm, But the right arm has become elongated to have a ‘long reach’ with particular, but difficult to interpret, protrusions that may be fingers or something else.

The ends of lines are given prominent pellets ( letters, legs, lion-skin).

5. This design retains the sense of contraposto and Classical proportions in the figure. The club is still clearly a club, but the lion-skin has been replaced by a bow. The bow was one of Hercules’s main attributes and weapons. The figure is twisting completely round, looking backwards, head turned in opposite direction to the feet, giving the whole pose a tense dynamism despite its heavy abstraction. Note the possible single horn that is appearing on the head. Here the lettering has been completely replaced with a double row of pellets. The letters between club and leg have now become a triple pellet – sign of sacred and Otherworld power.

6. Classical pose and proportions are retained here, a nice contraposto and well-defined arms and legs. The lion-skin takes greater part in the overall design echoing the lines and movement of the figure in a pleasing, balanced way. The club no longer resembles a rough-hewn branch. It’s form is familiar to coin art, though hard to clearly interpret. It may be a sceptre or wand and its top may be suggestive of serpentine energy.

There is a strong elongation of the face and jaw. This may be a representation of a long beard ( Herakles is always shown bearded), but the animal-like profile this gives to the figure may be suggestive of some kind of transformation or shape-changing qualities.

The lettering here is a more fluid, randomised ground of different sized pellets.

The mirroring of human and animal in the human/lion and human body/animal head may be an important aspect of the message in this image.

7. The figure of Herakles here is abstracted and statuesque, but all the physical characteristics are present. There is a conscious symmetry about the design with fairly precise mirroring about the central vertical axis. Both club and lion-skin are rendered as an arc of pellets. The head is just about identifiable as human but the whole feel is more hieratic and totemic. The way the two streams of small pellets meet and echo the surrounding pattern suggests a ‘pouring forth’ of blessings, power, abundance and so on. In this image the Otherworld divine certainly takes over from the Classical love of lithe, muscular, perfected masculinity. The phallic references of the elongated, domed head points to the progenitor, ancestor, fertility archetype, and is explored and developed in other Celtic coin images of Hercules, as we shall see. In all these images, the warlike attribute of the club is in a passive role, used more as a prop than a threat. Here, the originals are abstracted and, without reference to Classical types, one would not guess what they were – other than some kind of flow or emanation from the central figure.

The use of round pellets by coin artists is an interesting subject. Practically speaking, using a punch to create an indented round mark on the die is much simpler than engraving or carving a shape or line. Remember, that the working surface for coins is incredibly small, usually not much more than centimetre or two in diameter. Certainly there is a convention across coin art to terminate lines in a small punched circle. This is stylistic, but also practical : a neat way to clearly end a shape. Where there are masses of punched pellets there are several options as to specific meaning. Firstly, they provide a textured background pattern- though Celtic art is rarely concerned with showing ‘things on a background, or located in space’ as Classical art is. The Celtic artist is more focused on an integrated pattern-making that balances and plays with positive and negative space. Often the negative spaces are constructed to add to, or comment on, the objects modelled in relief.

There is a possibility that heavily pelleted grounds represent some quality of significant elemental solidity – earth, water and so on. This provides a whole development of possible meanings for images where these pellet grounds occur. If we ignore the prototype of Greek alphabetical text, what might these marks in this design now mean? Apart from amorphous and difficult to portray substances, such as light, darkness, earth, water, cloud, vapour, mist, air, stars, round pellets also reflect the circular nature of the coin itself and thus by correspondence to wealth, abundance, power, blessing, authority, seed, harvest, obligation, richness, the Land, numbers ( specific, as in triplicity, and general, as in manyfold, numerous, uncountable).

8. Another abstracted, statuesque totem. The emphasis here is on the large eye and the echoing ring pellets placed symmetrically around the figure. The Greek lettering has taken on a much more characteristic range of Celtic coin motifs that may or may not have fixed and understood meanings to the observer. Ring pellets may be solar symbols; dumbbell rods are commonly found and definitely suggest an object that has presence and weight, a ritual tool or piece of insignia;

groupings of three pellets commonly seem to indicate the special or sacred; groups of five- a square with a central pellet are also common, perhaps relating to the pentagram that was later In Medieval times associated with druid knowledge.

9. Here we have a continuation of the similar theme: a figure framed by four solar ring pellets on a field of other more or less same sized pellets. The figure is more dynamic, clearly moving off towards the right. The shoulders are emphasised but the arms are much less prominent. There is a hint that these may also be wing-like forms. The profile head has spiky hair and a prominent eye. The nose, lips/beard are at the same angle as the phallus and are also phallic in shape. There is a much greater sense in this design that the figure is integrated or emerging, or dissolving back into, the swirled lines of pellets around it. The presence of the ring pellets continually pull the viewer’s attention to them and they easily become staring eyes in a mysterious numinous face.

10. This design combines major aspects of both the Classical depictions and the Celtic interpretations. We have the club, the lion-skin, the broad, muscular shoulders. The figure in embedded in a regular field of pellets, with an additional halo of pellets arcing around the head. Spiky hair and phallic nose are emphasised. There is an interesting difference in the depiction of the legs: the left leg looks as if it is damaged or withered. There is no practical reason why the legs should not be drawn in the same way, so we can assume that the difference was intentional and significant. It could be argued that the ‘contraposto’ pose has simply been misinterpreted, and that the different angle and outline of the left leg was read as a malformation. Alternately, the staff/club, often shown as a support, may have suggested a more elderly, war-worn ancestral figure, or one who is magically ‘other’ or set apart from normal beings

11. This Herakles moves a long way away from the Classical, away from the human hero towards the numinous and ambiguous Otherworld being. Only the presence of the club, held in the right hand and resting on the ground, points us towards the Classical prototypes. Even that has its own peculiar doubling up of its knobbly shape. The symbol/Greek character between club and leg is now definitely the triple pellet of sacred presence. The other Greek letters have become familiar Celtic motifs. Note the torc below the feet, and, of course, the six-pointed star to which the figure seems to be gazing.

The profile head still possesses a prominent chin or beard and a long nose, but now there seems to be a clear pair of horns on the top of the head. The lion-skin is gone, replaced by a long tail that echoes the shape of the arm above, though this arm could be interpreted as a wing just as easily.

The pellet at the armpit is a real focus for the attention, and it also creates what resembles a long-necked bird’s head in the negative space there.

So here is a fully transforming, ambiguous Celtic Otherworld being: part human, part animal, part bird, part cosmic being.

There is still a sense that the figure is bestowing power or other blessings ( the pellets flowing away from the arm/wing; the pellet-like club; the symbols of wealth and power beneath its feet). These is a certain intensity in the portrayal of the head and star – it definitely seems to be the focus of the figure’s attention, almost to the exclusion of all else. The star was used in Roman coinage to symbolise apotheosis of emperor to god. The star in Celtic coin art is rather more ambiguous. Does it here represent a star deity? Or the ancestral progenitor as both a chthonic giant and a celestial presence?

12. The last image from this selected group clearly derives from the Herakles type, but is very simplified and has characteristics that emphasise a very different archetype – that of the Bird-Man-Spirit. We saw the iconographical shift take place in the last image, but there, the human was still present. Now the head is vehicle for a large staring eye, framed by a comb of spiky hair that is suggestive of a coxcomb. The long nose and chin now is transformed into an open bird beak. The arms, still with prominent shoulders, now terminate in birdlike, triple clawed feet, whilst the feet are also birdlike with maybe a hint of a spur at the heel. The warrior as wild boar is the commonest representation, but there is also a notable number of warrior-as-cockerel images. Both creatures share important characteristics: the razor-sharp bill/tusks and claws/feet; the erectile spinal bristles of the boar and puffed up feathers of the cockerel when threatened or in combat; the aggression and display; the relentless territorial protection of their offspring.

As well as these images from the Eastern Celts, there are also one or two possible Herakles images from Gaul. The attributes ( club, lion-skin, posture) are less certain, but we should consider that the similar imagery may also indicate, if not Hercules himself, then the archetype of a semi-divine progenitor, guardian spirit and model of the heroic defender of the people.

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And, lastly, if we glance over some of the medieval Welsh and Irish traditions we might see useful links back to these Iron Age motifs of the Goddess.

Ceridwen has been thought to derive from ‘crooked’ or ‘bent’ woman. In true Celtic fashion this ambiguous name/definition can be related to one who stirs a cauldron, or to a river’s appearance, or to the crescent moon. But might it not also refer to the winding-unwinding serpent? To the adder, with its distinctive zig-zag patterning, to its lightning-like wriggling through the undergrowth? To its circular, curled, incubation of its eggs? The image of sudden initiation, realisation combined with the shock of venom, with the flash of lightning (another ‘crooked one’). All these elements, snake, zig-zag, spiral snake, lightning, are prominent and inscrutable visual elements in coin art also.

And let us not forget the vivid, unforgettable description of Ceridwen, as well as numerous other Otherworld Hag and Sovereignty Goddess figures. Do they not very clearly carry the attributes of the wild boar? They are come across in deep woodland; they are huge, monstrous; they have long, hooked, dripping noses; they have huge hanging teats, prominent hanging bellies; they have sabre-like nails on hands and feet; they have stiff, black barb-like body hair; they have black hide-like skin; they have tusks curling from their mouths. They are hideous and inescapable. What is a clearer set of attributes than this? It is only the bravest and most skilled of warrior/hunters who can come away unscathed from a boar hunt; only one chosen to be the best; only one who is given the best haunch of meat at the feast, who is given the most honoured seat.

The horse is the Primal Goddess of Sovereignty in her purest and most amenable, placated form.

She initiates and tests through her wrathful form of the boar.

She empowers and watches over the souls of warriors in her carrion bird forms. 

She brings transcendent, timeless and transformative, secret wisdom through her snake form.

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In the most complete and extant form of Indo-European cosmology, Hinduism, there are numerous goddesses that have different functions. In essence, at a theological level, they are all seen as aspects of a single primal goddess. In Celtic cosmology it may be that Sovereignty is an aspect of the Great Goddess, and that this function is closely related to other manifestations such as the goddess of Victory, War, Death, The Land. The function of all these goddesses is the maintenance of ‘right order’ and ‘abundant harmony’, the bestowal of ‘reward’, and there assignment of blessings and punishment.

There is a persuasive drift in myth that suggests the most potent magical power and authority was always to be derived from women and women’s traditions, the magic of place and of origins. Giantesses, witches, hags and such visibly ‘alien’ others, are all feared as dangerous enemies in Norse and Celtic myth, but they are necessarily sought out, mated with, learned from, initiated by, cajoled to reveal the deepest magical truths that allow the male gods and heroes to be successful in their new warrior world. It is the female that roots the tribe to its land.

Some of the earliest ritual wall art within an urban environment is found at Catal Huyuk in Turkey. It shows women/priestesses/goddesses that resemble birds of prey, particularly vultures, death-eaters, consumers and transformers of the body. This fearsome imagery might be a template for the Furies and Fates of Greece, and the Nike, the bird-winged goddess of Victory. The angelic form can lulus into a false sense of security with this familiar figure. She is a carrion bird, the remover and gatherer of souls, the bestower of survival and rebirth. This carrion Death goddess is a wrathful, active form of the Great Goddess, whose other polar manifestation is the Lover and Nurturer. The Goddess of Sovereignty combines and balances these two expressions. She is both peaceful nurturer and fierce defender of her offspring.

The concept and embodiment of Sovereignty is central to the mythic structure of the Indo-European culture groups. The basic hierarchy remains in place well beyond the establishment of the Christian Era. The legitimate ruler is the manifestation, or consort of, the deity of the Land. By that union, victory, abundance, and fertility are ensured. The two other elites, the priesthood and the warriors, serve as supports and upholders of their primal relationship.

Sovereignty is mainly conceived as a fecund and powerful female, a personification or manifestation of the tribal land. Right from early times, the right to rule, it seems, was connected to the horse. Ss a status symbol of there conquering male warrior, there horse is the Porsche, the Chieftain tank, the Lear jet of the Iron Age. Only the wealthy could afford to keep horses and control the land and fodder required for active war-horses.

Wild horses, the graceful and swift creatures of there open grasslands, embody the spirit of wild, free, empowered life-force. The ‘wind-horse’ of Mongolian, Siberian and Tibetan iconography is the epitome of this association of the horse with raw and primal life-force, also known as chi, prana, and so on. The taming and mastering of the herds, the cooperation between horse and rider becomes metaphorically identical to the union of (non-human), unbounded, wild, unowned nature to (human) cultivated, demarcated tribal lands.

The very visual structure of coin art with its polarity of human head and horse on either side expresses this relationship. A coin is a constant reminder and validation of the power of the chieftain as a manifestation or partnership of the Otherworld Sovereignty essence to the human ruler. One is the aspect of the other: a successful leader manifests because he or she is empowered, inspired, overshadowed by the powerful divine force. If that contract is broken in some way, then failure, disease, poverty will inevitably follow. It is there most potent, magical mirroring between the power and harmony of Divine Order and the order of the human world.

The purpose of coin production is to maintain and increase power and influence. In does so, in a magical ands political way, by justifying the power of the elites, establishing them as cosmically rightful by bringing together all the iconographical symbols of Otherworld Sovereignty. But what are the specific imagery that can lead us to a specific indication of the Sovereignty Goddess?

Firstly, representations of female figures in coin art are less common than male figures. In either case, we can only guess as to whether the figures represent know human individuals, or Otherworld beings, or deities, ancestors, allegories, attributes and so on. To say a representation is of a goddess is fraught with problems.

The designers of coin art certainly followed many of the conventions of Classical coin iconography, so that representations of Classical goddesses can be seen to inspire Celtic coins. Whether the same meaning carried over with the form, however, cannot easily be known.

We also have to bear in mind our own preconceptions of what constitutes a deity, and that the familiar, human representations of Greek and Roman pantheons as ‘idealised humans’ may be entirely the wrong way to gauge Celtic conceptions of sacred, divine beings. So, too, we need to be a little wary of how Classical writers describe and define Celtic deities in terms of their own familiar iconography. This goes for the forms given to Romano-Celtic religious statuary as well. What we might see from the imagery pre- and post- conquest, is that the style of figuration is very different, but that there does seem to be a continuity of attributes and associated symbols that accompany the anthropomorphic figures we assume are divine in nature.

Nothing in Celtic art is ‘just’ one thing. A horse symbolises a whole raft of connected meaningful concepts. The nature of symbols associated with any horse image might help us to more clearly identify what might be its primary message. For example, the solar cross/flower/concentric circular designs seem to suggest solar, or at least, bright/ shining/ effulgent/ radiant. These motifs often replace the rider, but are also found in front of, behind, and beneath the horse. These solar type symbols are commonly paired with horses. Crescent motifs, the easiest visual way to represent lunar energies, are much less frequent in this context with the horse.

Unless we can find other motifs that point to ‘Sovereignty’, horse imagery is at best ambivalent. The combination of horse + wheel/cross is a common motif in northern Europe from the Bronze Age right through to the Iron Age. It is generally assumed to be a solar symbol, together with the boat + wheel/cross, representing the continual movement of the sun across the sky and beneath the Earth.

Some Classical coin designs have a winged Victory flying above a horse-drawn chariot. Others show Victory stepping forward with a wreath raised to place on the victor’s head. These two images are the prototypes for many of the female figures found in Celtic coin art, but they are most likely to represent one of the wrathful forms of the Goddess such as War, Soul-Collector, Gatherer of the Dead, rather than what we understand as a Sovereignty goddess.

Epona, the widely revered Celtic goddess of Romanised Europe, is certainly a goddess of horses. But her attributes are peaceful and beneficent: foals and cornucopia. It is likely she was revered by cavalry because she represented protection and fertility of the stable, not because she brought victory in battle. As such, Epona is less likely to be found in coin art.

Still, there are some powerful images of anthropomorphic horses in coin art that may represent ‘Goddess as Horse’.

The horse is most often combined in coin art with the boar. It may be that there is a distinction made by the artists between male and female – only adult males have continually growing canines that become prominent tusks. Male boars will therefore tend to symbolise the tenacious warrior.

Habits of the boar can be seen as echoing important traditional human social behaviours: there is a separation between male and female, with young males creating small social groups until they reach full adulthood, when they become solitary except in the mating season where they will seek out the matriarchal female groups and violently fight other males for the right to mate. Females live together with their young under the leadership of a matriarch sow. Female boars are much bigger and much more territorial than the males. Despite not having tusks, they are massively strong, able to shift large boulders and run at over 20 miles per hour. Thus the female wild boar is an ideal symbol for the Goddess as Sovereignty – protective of its territory, nurturing of its many piglets and a danger to all strangers when provoked.

So horse + female boar might indicate: Goddess as Sovereignty/ Goddess of the Tribal Land

Horse + male, tusked boar might indicate: Goddess of Land protected by warrior elite, or simply the mounted warrior elite as defender and guardian.

Horses are also presented quite often with birds and snakes.

When the horse is with carrion birds ( ravens, crows, eagles), the combined attributes of the Goddess as War or Death-Bringer might be the intended meaning. Carrion birds are a near universal symbol of wrathful Death and Battle goddesses, also linked to the collecting of warriors’ souls from the battlefield and the concept of the guardian of individual warriors’ souls.

Boars and carrion birds are commonly combined: Goddess manifesting as Tribal Protector, Fierce Defender.

Less often, the horse is associated with water birds (ducks, geese, cranes). In these cases the Goddess appears in a more benign guise as Goddess of Healing and Rebirth. Waterbirds in ancient Northern mythologies are closely related to the souls of the dead, souls being redistributed or reborn, as well as messengers between the spirit realms. ( Remember the stork delivering babies). In ritual contexts throughout the Celtic world images of ducks seem to take prayers and supplications for healing to the spirit realms and perhaps return with the blessings of the deities.

Lastly, horses are commonly depicted with serpents about them. These may be ‘normal’ looking snakes, or they may have horned heads. Serpents are also a common motif in front of female profile heads – probably more frequently seen than representations of horses. The snake/wisdom connection might suggest a druidic link. There are some powerful coin images of warriors apparently dancing holding snakes in their hands. Goddess as Death/Initiation/Wisdom Holder may be part of the meaning in these contexts.

As an interesting aside, the wild boar/pig is one of the few mammals that have chemicals allowing them to be immune to snake venom. Biologically useful in a creature that roots around in dense undergrowth, it also provides a magical connection that links protectress with dangerous snake-druid wisdom, particularly as snakes are often correlates to Underworld/Death/Ancient/Chthonic Earth power.

In the past such bizarre pairings of animals has been interpreted as the depictions of unknown myths or tribal folktales illustrating a virtue or proverbial desired outcome, like some barbaric Aesop. But if we look at them as indicators of particular divine function and divine manifestation, a more coherent and unified interpretation can be made. The attributes of the Goddess, horse, boar, bird, snake clearly define in which powerful aspect she is being invoked. Goddess as Primal Keeper of the Tribal Lands. Goddess as Protector and Nurturer of her People. Goddess as Devourer of Enemies and Leader to Victory in Battle. Goddess as Keeper of Mysteries.

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simonhlilly

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Sky Boat of the Durotriges

There now, let them rise up: the dark voices, the light voices,
The feathered, the fervid, the iron road of truth is a road we must go down
And the boat of morning and the waters of night.
We are three of indeterminate form:
Too fast, too patient, too vast to keep a single shape.
We are three, is all you need to know, the indicator of splendour.
They see us who know us, they know us who see us.
We glide on shadowed moments, in dreaming time,
On pools of blood and pools of passion.
Words that approach silence ornament us.
They say it is a boat, a barque, but it wavers as a reflection does,
As a path in shimmering summer air, as firelight in a drunken hall.
For we ride beyond the waves of light, on photonic tides,
A boat that is…

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It is the rocks that make the river sing,
The world that gives us song.
Bones creak, branches heavy with snow,
Breath captured must release.
Spring will come.

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Before and After Li Po

( improvisations on the poem “Jingting Shan Hill” by Li Po, following the lead of Robert Okaji)

Characters are rendered:

Crowd birds high fly utmost
Lonely cloud alone go idle
Mutual watch both not tire
Only be Jingting Shan

1
Birds, a scattered knot
In distant depth.
One cloud aimless
(This thought).
Lost the mirror distance,
Resonant, the still hill.

2
Silent swing the flock.
Wind flute, too, silent
At this peak of distance.
We exist only because
Of the other.
Green hill breathing.

3
Caught, the distant, sweet movement.
An upper air, a life of song and wind,
Silent here from this depth.
See too, there is one small cloud,
Sweet movement hesitant.
So, now, eye sinks earthwards,
Locks on swelling hill,
There before, and there after,
A poet’s gaze.

4
Scribble splatter
Brush of birds.
Splashed distant sky.
One thought lost,
The hand and eye
Follow each other,
Equally curious.
A mountain of bone
And earth,
Misted,
Remains.

5
The names matter.
On the tongue, in memory.
Located the sweep of sky,
The noisy flock of one mind,
The moment,
A congregation
Of blessings.

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Not strictly on topic, but another aspect of Northern shamanic traditions….

simonhlilly

pattern of nine1

Please click on this link to view a preview of my newly finished book:

stave runes all

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the dead arise….

simonhlilly

ThisIsOurSigntext1

SNAKE SPIRAL TORC

We slide spiraling
Ferociously nonchalant
Eyes on fire, laughing.

The tumble of sun on sun
The silk whisper, pale moonlight
Equations piled up,
The footprints marking time,
Precise dancers through space.

A knot upon hillsides,
A marching shadow in the valley.
Enchained to the motion,
Slave of raw power, sudden beauty.

This is our sign.
That we dance the dance
Between dusk and dawn
According to the paths before us.

spirit dancers text1

A continuation of my sporadic project to re-introduce Iron Age Celtic imagery and world-view into the world art vocabulary and other grandiose schemes…..

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He, Who

A small meditation upon the seated god -druid – seer image

simonhlilly

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HE WHO

Seated god
Says:
“your eyes
are held
Captive
To my stillness.”

He who,
nameless,
named
Now sits,
throned naked
In memory halls.

He who,
voiceless,
whispers
In echoing soul.

Tied by more
than chance,
Tied by here,
by holding stare.

He who
holds steady
the golden promise
Of sun’s journey –
torc horizon,
Aloft,
glinting heavy.

Joined:
the two apart
woven now
To strong chain.
Just like this.

Eye locked,
mind forged,
Welded,
hammered
across lifetimes.

He who,
naked,
needs no armour,
Who,
cross-legged,
needs no defence.
Mountain looking,
ocean speaking,
Still as centuries.

He who,
hair braided,
hair cloaked,
Looks out from,
in to ,
Within, within
This circle,
This heavy
wheel horizon.

He who,
Is.

—-

This is one of the most enigmatic of coin art images, as the simple ones sometimes are. A naked seated male figure. Either with long braided hair or with a…

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