Offerings to Hekate

 By Ellen Lorenzi-Prince 

Copyright © 2002

 

 Crow

    She was gone in the morning. And I somehow get through the day.

     In the evening I walk along the rutted edge of the fields. I look out away to the east. I listen to the wheat whispering in the wind and feel the darkness waiting there. I turn and watch the sun fade behind the town, behind the line of oaks. I covet the lives of the crows, coming and going and talking among the trees, as they catch up on their day and settle for the night. I want to fly. I want to belong.

Two more announce themselves.  “Caw caw caaaaawww.” “Caaaw, caaaw.” That last’s a young one; its voice hasn’t the depth of age.  I never lived near so many crows before coming to the valley.  They must love it here, the open skies, the fields full of produce and the highways strewn with meat.

     Is it carrion eating that gives them an evil reputation?  Crows, the big black birds of death. It seems resourceful to me, making use of what’s available.  They’re not the ones doing the killing; they clean up after it.

Death must be a lonely business. It can never really be shared.  So personal a thing, I would imagine. That awareness of bodily disintegration, that separation, that final goodbye.

But the crows aren’t lonely. 

     My neck is stiff from staring up at the trees.  I roll my head around to loosen it. A wave of dizziness washes over my eyes, through my gut. A piece of darkness lies on the golden ground. 

     A dead crow.

     The entire bird. The black iridescent feathers, the strong beak, the curled claws. Its eye sockets crawling with the ants eating its brain.

     I touch the soft feathers of its breast, then jerk my hand back. It’s still warm! For one blinding moment I hope and fear it is alive. But of course it is not.

     I pick it up gently and brush the ants away. The body is still flexible. I stretch and fold its wings. The beautiful magical wings. Perfect wings. I hold a gift in my hands. I hold a test for my soul. In another time, another place, I knew what to do.

     “Take the wings,” someone whispered. “Take the wings and fly.”

     I am thrilled. I am repelled. I would mutilate the body of this precious animal. This animal that looked so perfect, except for the empty eyes. Which ones among the flock were your special friends, I ask it. Where do you go when you die, I ask. 

     Take the wings. This is not the same as gathering fallen feathers, or even pulling a few clean ones from a dried up pile of bones and leather. It could be gross. I try not to do gross things. I don’t want to do this.

     But I think Hekate wants me to do this. She wants me to see something here. And I have a pocketknife.

     But I know this is going to be gross. It was hard enough picking up this bird, not to mention the ants.

     If I ignore this, then I am denying all I am beginning to learn about magic and power. If I turn away from this death, this body of my spirit bird. If I don’t do what she says. If I refuse to make this change in who I am, to become more of who I want to be. Someone brave and strong with mysterious powers.

     My curiosity and longing prove greater than my fear. I stretch out a wing and start to cut.

     Ugh, the meat is red and chewy, the sinews still tight and strong. This is death, this is what we come to, meat and bone, our blood dried in our veins, our eyes and brains gone, our spirits gone to who knows where.

     I sing to them. To the spirits of those who have gone before. Bird and human. The chanting helps settle my stomach.

     I take both wings. I take the tail, still soft enough to spread into a perfect fan. I take the claws to make into earrings.

     The body is ugly and sad when I’m done. But it’s still just dead. I give it back to the ants. I haven’t taken the parts they want most.

     My parts I take home and put on my bedroom altar. And then I wash and get into bed, ready for vigil or sleep, dream or nightmare. Ready for anything, except nothing.

    There's nothing.

    Hekate, haven’t I done what you asked? Haven’t I? Where are you? Where are you?

    What are you, is the question I do not ask, a thought I avoid putting into words inside my mind.

     I don’t believe it will be sleep tonight.

 

NEXT