Upon the ridge they waited, looking out over the patchwork of hills and fields, the trees bending and swaying in the mighty gusts that surged up from the lower levels, threatening to pluck them from their perch. The tumultuous clouds billowed, full and heavy, as the rolling thunder resounded over the landscape; the roaring winds joining the wailful choir, shaking them to their core. A lonely church stood against the twilight, a long forgotten sanctuary that had not taken kindly to the test of time, now trembled beneath the lightning lacerated skies, its mossed brickwork, ivy-wreathed and crumbling. From canopy to forest floor, and within the oaken green atop the ridge high above the hills, dripped the damp and mossy scent of dirt. The cavalcade of deep russet, bronzed and golden dervishes had passed as the land was embraced by the chill of encroaching darkness, but still the scents of old leaf and bark were snatched up and carried on the tempest; fungoid and earthy, bitten by frosts.
The Sun’s setting had thrown innumerable shadows across the old stones, reaching out from the Oakwood, where the two stood hand in hand. Resinous tendrils of smoke curled and danced from their fire to the lichen-rich branches, devoid of leaves; a dusky incense hanging on the boughs, mimicking the morning mists and night-time fogs that rose around these parts. It cloaked the land in an Otherworldly hush, only broken by the snapping of twigs and crunching of fallen leaves under foot; once the storms had hurled through, with a Berserker’s fury, on their way to pastures afar. Electrifying the air. They watched in anticipation and trepidation as this new storm approached, it was different from the others. Their thumping hearts beat in their ears, quickened blood pulsed through their veins, words escaped them, wide eyes locked onto what was unfolding before them. Still their hands remain firmly grasped in each others’ as they stood their ground. As the clouds parted and the veil slipped away, there was a terrifying, awe-inspiring sight. Maddened women; shrieking wraiths, clothed in diaphanous chiton, serpents writhing about them, and those with shaggy thighs and hooves of goat. And while dancing the dance of madness alongside the god of ecstasy and terror, of wildness and most blessed deliverance, wreathed in vine, their thyrsus were raised high and the bottomless kantharos passed from outstretched hand to outstretched hand. The scepter and the orb. He is King here.
The lusty, iron-tinged aroma of the kill assaulted them as the winds surged relentlessly. The scent of sex and death, the smell of Him, surrounded them, infusing them, calling to them. Their hands clasped tighter, hearts stopping momentarily, as Boreas swirled furiously around them; seizing them and hauling them, windswept and awestruck, into the embrace of the raving company. Careening and howling through the air, the winds of time and change whistled around them as they were broken down and fiercely torn asunder. The sweet taste of wine fell upon their lips, eyes rolling, heads thrown back. Tears. Tears and wine. Tears, wine, madness and ecstasy. He battered the debris away, striking down the nagging doubts, culling the old and making way for something else. But what? And where shall we tread the dance, tossing our white heads in the frenzied dances of the god? Through life’s storms and through our dreams and into the Unknown.
His power resides in the stench of burnt Oak and Pine, in the scent of the Fir and Fig, in the forgotten wild places, where blood falls upon old stone. His horns curl like the bare branches of Winter trees. He is the thunderous breaking of a Mother’s waters, the perfection of labour, the cracking of a new egg. He is life. Preservation. You can find Him in the heart-stopping passion of a lover’s kiss, in their sensual touch, when bodies and souls entangle. In envy, desire and lust, jealousy, anger and rage, passion, hunger and fear. It is Him who watches from the shadow, His gaze burning into your soul. His power is found in His blood that flows to nourish, to rejuvenate, to fertilise; the catalyst for that embryonic spark. It is found in the flowing wine and the breaking of bread. Blood on bread. He is also Death. The mists that churn upon hallowed ground where the dead lie. The freshly turned earth of a fresh dug grave. He is both life and death, and that place in between. He is a mantic god, closely linked with oracular vision and rules over Delphi during the Winter months, His power resides in vision and He bestows enthusiasmos upon his beloved seers. He is the grasped hands of true friendship, a warm embrace. He can be very loving (stiflingly so) but He can be cruel and harsh. He is ecstasy, that primal fire that burns and consumes. Two-horned, two-natured, thrice-born He inspires the divine madness. He pushes and pulls. He lurks in the smell of musty books, the glint in the artist’s eye, in the scratch of graphite on paper. He is the spirit of raw creativity that drives our art and our Arte. There is a complexity to Him, many layers that over time He may reveal. There is a sophistication in His wildness. He is the guide, the liberator, the teacher, the messenger, the challenger, the gatekeeper, the key, the subterranean one, the healer, the destroyer, he of the black goatskin, the magician, he who causes stumbling, my savior…
As the cataclysm of wind, hale, rain and cracking thunder tore through the night, the ekstasis reached its peak in a clashing of horn, hoof and bare hand, fueled by a primal rage. The dance had become a frenzy. Tearing. Ripping. In a cacophony of tambourine, ebony flute, ecstatic scream, and tempestuous weather, a piercing was made. The blood of the ever-dying, ever-living god had been spilt; and howling He leant against His staff. The wound was deep, fatally so, and His knees were failing Him. Amid the violence and catastrophic noise, He gathered them close and a whisper was heard. Soft and gentle. A whisper filled with tenderness, and His age-old promise of rendering them anew as the dawn of a new day breaks. He stains their foreheads with His blood and the kantharos is raised one last time. He shall come again, He is after all ‘the god that comes’, but in that he is also the god that leaves. So now to rest, and in the bassaris pulled around his shoulder, lays their promise. The two kneel, sanctified in Him and shall forge on; and the dance continues. They have each other. As The Mother embraces Him, tears are shed, visions blacken and they fall…
…As the Sun rose over the distant hills, they awoke shivering at the foot of their forked staff, a fire rekindled within. A purpose renewed. And as they drained their cup to its bitter dregs, their hands are still intertwined.
Text – Sarah-Jayne Farrer
“Ivy Wreathed” © Matt Baldwin-Ives & Sarah-Jayne Farrer
“Maenad: Awake but Dreaming” © Sarah-Jayne Farrer
“The Sacrificed God” © Matt Baldwin-Ives (www.milescross.co.uk)
Original sculpture for “The Sacrificed God” was created by Chris Goodwin