Monday, October 26, 2009

Da Bus

It's time to hop aboard The Poetry Bus. One of the options this week
was to do the following, in the words of TFE:

Relax, blah blah, ham sandwich, yadda yadda, Drambuie, then take
10 mins to look at yourself in the mirror. Look at the colour of your
eyes, the windows of your soul, every tiny blemish, the crows feet,
the lines, the wrinkles, the facade, the public face, the private face.

Well, I was fresh out of Drambuie, but I had a ham sandwich, and
this is what I saw in the mirror:



Patron Saint

.

Deep in the mirror,
her eyes meet mine
in the glow
of her low-ceilinged room.

Ancient mother,
tends the hearth,
smoors the fire,
rakes my dreams
of earthy peat.

Her besom prayers
kindle bright,
while sacred three
light my night.

Then beckons me
with withy broom,
sweeps circled heaps
of embers,

St. Brighid offers solace
in her cinders.


willow, 2009

to my ancient grandmother, Anne Mackie, 1580, Galloway


"Smooring the fire" is an artistic and symbolic ceremony
performed by the woman of the house before retiring for the night.
A ritual blessing, recited over the fire in Gaelic is called "smaladh";
in Scottish, "smooring"; and in English "smothering". The embers
are evenly spread on the hearth and formed into a circle, which is
then divided into three sections, with peat laid between each.

As a prayer to St. Brighid, the first peat is laid down in name
God of Life, the second in name God of Peace, the third in name
God of Grace. The circle is then covered over with ashes
sufficient to subdue, but not to extinguish, the fire in name of the
Three of Light.

This makes me think "smores", the traditional campfire treat,
consisting of a layer of roasted marshmallow and a layer of
chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham cracker,
doesn't come from "s'more" or "give me some more", but rather
from the tradition of smooring the fire. Maybe the correct
spelling should actually be "smoors"?

Just so you know, a "besom" is a broom made of a bundle of strong
flexible "withy" or willow stems, the kind you imagine for a witch's
broom. How perfect for me, and so apropos for the season, too.

And hey, did you know St. Brighid is the patron saint of poets?

82 comments:

  1. hello willow - i loved the rich earthy womanliness of the poem and the unpacking of terms was really cool. i love the rituals that our ancestors used. there's care and attention and respect packed away inside the smallest moments that is harder to find and see in this time. lovely. have a peaceful sunday at the manor. steven

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  2. Willow I am beginning to see your soul as evidenced in your writing. You are a professional. I love the poem and the explanation of the words was a wonderful learning time for me. I am impressed. Guess I had better read your earlier posts. I would like to know your background, that is is you approve.
    QMM

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  3. Beautiful poem, very evocative; thank you for sharing. Wonder how it would have turned out with the drinkie?

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  4. QMM, of course, please dig away! My old posts are all still there, collecting dust in the bloggy back room. Yes, I think it's safe to say I'm a soulful kinda girl. :)

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  5. Such lovely, evocative language in that poem. I really enjoy your writing and poetry. Also loved the fact that you gave an explanation of the vocabulary.

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  6. Hmmmm, just wondering if you saw my Haiku Saturday last week... I pretty much looked in the mirror and wrote what I saw (one was about my husband tho). Of course I was just trying not to cry :)
    This was a beautiful post, almost makes me want to give it another shot, but a serious one this time. I'll let you know if I come up with anything.

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  7. nice...when i look in the mirror i can channel my inner Suess.

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  8. I loved your poem and the explanation of the "smooring of the fire" touch something deep within my heart. A mother praying for her house and family while performing her last task for the day - what a blessing!

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  9. When I look at that picture, I imagine that you are thinking, "Otin, one more crazy comment and I will kick your butt!!" haha.

    You are really a wonderful poet!

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  10. Otin, your crazy comments are always welcome, my bloggy friend. I like a few raisins in the tasteless dough of existence!

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  11. RX, hey, I missed it! Must go check out your haiku thingy...

    (sounds fun)

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  12. ...Wonderful!...Were you actually listening to the Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima while writing this?...It would explain some of the "witchiness" implied...I also enjoyed having many of the words used explained...A wonderful poem willow!

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  13. nicely done...love the new words you taught me today as well. hope you have a great sunday!

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  14. This poem was like a really good-tasting rich broth for me. Love the new words I've now learned. I opted for the racket - sorry - music and I'm on da bus.

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  15. So beautiful, and thoughtful too. As always... the connection of art and life and society. thanks willow.

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  16. We won't have smores today but more than likely we won't have sex on my birthday either. At 75 who needs it? lol

    Excuse my English.

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  17. Hmmm.. not a bad poem after a ham sandwich. I love the "Ancient mother, tends the hearth, smoors the fire, rakes my dreams of earthy peat." It awakens the Scot in me.

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  18. lovely poem Willow and very interesting fire ritual - I want a smore! but not an ingredient in sight! sigh :)

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  19. beautiful poem, so well done and oh how I wish society wast still filled with such magical rituals...its such a richer and more enchanted way of being...

    much love, you are beautiful!

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  20. Love the poem - and the rituals it describes. I have not heard that word smoors before - interesting. Those marshmallow and choccy things sound very smoorish! You must be first on the poetry bus this week willow.

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  21. Wow.... great creative writing Willow.... and the ancient history of the night sleepy ritual. Great stuff for the change of weather we're having.
    The Bach

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  22. I love all that peaty, smoory, withied imagery. St Brighid is most appropriate!

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  23. Wow...this is so brilliant, Willow! All of those second meanings and how they tie to you...even the broom made from willow...love it! I know you would have posted a picture of our ancient grandmother if you had one...wouldn't that be neat to find one some day!

    And 'smoors'....who knew!?

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  24. I didn't know a lot of things. But then I found your blog and am learning all the time.
    I can't thank you enough for the explanations, and I think your poetry is quite lovely. You need to have it published.

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  25. This poem reaches way back in time,
    I hear faint stirring,
    somebody's smooring the fire?

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  26. Another wonderful poem, Willow. I really encourage you to publish them! I mean it. First of all, do a blurb book and include your wonderful photos with poems. And then let me know you did it so I can buy one!

    But seriously, talk to someone and submit them to some places--get them published! You're really quite good! I have never said that to anyone else, and I'm pretty picky about the poems I like.

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  27. ps
    I think you may be right about the "smoors." I know I want to go make one right now (to honor our ancestors.)

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  28. Sue, yes, I think our ancestors would be very pleased, indeed, if we all ate smores in honor of them! Terrific idea!

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  29. All of this knowledge is so profound..a very rich experience..
    "sacred three light my night"..who could want more? Thank you..

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  30. Willow, hello fellow Libran ....and I like the Thoreau quote too.

    A great poem instead of the ?able music challenge! In my younger days we used to smore the fire at night. Our own peats cut each May at the far end of the farm were just the best thing for a winter night. How I miss them. So much has changed.

    I do like
    'Then beckons me
    with withy broom'

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  31. Talk about well put.
    I enjoyed it, I really did.

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  32. This is making me think of the evening rituals in our house - turning out lights, locking doors, making sure the nest is safe...

    This Halloween I'm dressing as a witchy type person (there will be a blog post later today), & I have a short-handled hearth broom that I'm carrying around. It was hand made at the Pleasant Hill Shaker village. I call it my Prius...

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  33. I'm so glad that you explained the meaning of smoor, because I was all ready to look it up. It does make a person wonder if witches were just hearth-keepers after all.

    p.s. I don't know why exactly, (but it may have something to do with the biography of Nora Barnacle that I read long ago, but I find "Galway" to be a rich and resonant word.

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  34. Hello, willow.
    Thank you for visiting my blog.

    Your blog is very attractive.

    Greetings.
    ruma

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  35. Beautifully done Willow--& I didn't know about the smooring ritual, so thanks for the interesting explanation!

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  36. Love The Poem.Strange.These Days I Look in The Mirror & sometimes See My Father Eyes.....Thank You Willow For Reminding Me & helping Me Think About It.

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  37. Bee, I like to call it "Gallowa" like my Lowland Scots.

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  38. It all ties in beautifully.

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  39. A wonderful poem on so many levels, the October witches, the looking at the self in the mirror and I love all the Celtic imagery. And thank you for your explanation of the words.

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  40. Willow,that post was so interesting to read,really!Love it!

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  41. Clearly your Celtic roots are healthy yet and sending up fine strong shoots. Galloway - a glorious, sometimes neglected, piece of Scotland.

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  42. Just wonderful. I loved this: the poem, your picture, the notes. It just suited my moment so perfectly this evening. Thank you, Willow.

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  43. Beautiful poem! Bridgid is my very favorite saint/goddess. Every way of celebrating her is so so beautiful. Thank you!

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  44. BTW your mirrored image is gorgeous!

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  45. This was lovely and interesting, Willow.It had a real ancient Scottish feel to it.Maybe it's just the time of year but I see ghosts or 'fetches' in it.It is a great poem, enigmatic and mysterious, I sense Scottish Lowland mists weaving in and out.I particularly like the end lines of

    'Then beckons me
    with withy broom,
    sweeps circled heaps
    of embers,

    St. Brighid offers solace
    in her cinders.'

    This is wonderful, Willow.Tangxzs ye!

    Ps We used to put the fire to bed at night,burying glowing embers in the ashes of the hearth to keep them alive to relight the fire in the morning, but it is not a patch on your wonderful 'smooring'ceremony.
    I didn't know St Brighid was the patron saint of Poets,must light a candle to her, she might send me a good poem!
    Pip pip!

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  46. Nice. Can almost smell the smoldering.

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  47. Withy, pithy. Sounds so very Scot/Irish. Period pieces from the area always look cold and dank. No wonder they were hardy stock. Thanks for the explanation. Pappy

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  48. I like this poem immensely! And your word histories and explanations....really add so much to the experience of reading your poem. Bravo!

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  49. Lovely post and fascinating bit of history!

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  50. Your poem - and the addenda - are fascinating. I went hunting at Wiki and found this:

    "Brigid was given the same name as one of the most powerful goddesses of the pagan religion which her father Dubhthach practiced; Brigid was the goddess of healing and inspiration, craftsmanship and poetry, which the Irish considered the flame of knowledge."

    So this is a story with very deep roots.

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  51. All of your posts are entertaining Willow, most are a joy to read, many are illuminating, some are downright profound; but now and then one is all of the above and rises to the level of brilliance.

    Today's post is one of those.

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  52. I think you managed to capture some of those bright sparks from the fire into that already brilliant brain of yours. I am awestruck Willow! You have just shortened an ancient distance from the dawn of time through millenniums to now, including stops along the way. Save the whole piece, from the ham sandwich to the s'mores. For such a soft dreamy prayer it is bursting with power. A standing O!!!!

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  53. Well, first off let me tell you I also most had a figurative heart attack when I tyed in your blog name and nothing came up but bloggers generic no site exists page. I looked at the URL a few times and it looked good, so after downing a few chugs of my tea, I breathed, about to go to Betsy's to see if she could shed any light but then it hit me! I had typed: "http://wiilowmanor.blogspot.com/"! thankfully a silly typos (easy for me to make) was all that was wrong. PHEW!!

    So....are you saying you are a "wich" or "witchy?!!!" I'm always learning something new when I come over here.

    BTw, I woner if you like Lorrena McKennit's music? I can just imagine it lilting away in the manor.

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  54. You had a ham sandwich, looked beyond your public face and then came up with that? That is really profoundly beautiful, Willow! It's as if you went into your genetic skin so to speak! I love the poem so much! I bet if I had a ham sandwich and tried the same thing it wouldn't produce anything half as good. I'll have to try...

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  55. I loved your poem and the explanation you gave afterwards about one of the expressions you used. It just complemented what to me was a very honest portrayal of your own self. Not an easy task to do.

    Many thanks. I enjoyed your post very much.

    Greetings from London.

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  56. Wow, willow, class!
    Very evocative embracing of self and history, beautiful atmosphere and you have witchy eyes!

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  57. That was really beautiful. And thanks for the lesson on the meaning! I really learned something today.:)

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  58. Loved your poem. Even the comments were beautiful. They said what I wanted to say. I will remember and come back to this poem. Thank you.

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  59. Thank you for explaining "besom" I was totally lost on that one but the other references were self explanatory as I read your wonderful, warming poem.

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  60. Gosh, thanks everybody. I know I've said this before, but I have the best readers in the whole bloggyhood. It's so very rewarding to write for you!! ((kiss-kiss))

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  61. Perfect Celtic imagery as we approach Samhain.

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  62. I love that word *besom* - the look of it and the sound of it.

    Your poem was lovely and that photo - which I've seen on your sidebar - is very autumnal.

    Where I live - Brittany - there are lots of Celtic rituals overladen with Catholic ones. The street signs are written in Breton as well as French and they really do look like Gaelic and Cornish words.

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  63. I always learn something new with you beautiful lady.

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  64. Your poetry shows off your soul .. in such a lovely way

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  65. Mmm, mm; that's a nice one, Willow.
    Looking through yourself to your ancestors, what grace.

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  66. What a fantastic piece of poetry and the included description of the ritual of "smooring the fire" just adds that extra element. I have come to expect such high standards from Willow Manor and I am never disappointed.

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  67. Alan, now I'm feeling an extra bit of "oblogation"! ;^)

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  68. Everything's been said above. It's a good one for Halloween week too.
    x

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  69. Dia duit, a Willow agus go raibh maith agat for this. My favorite lines: "rakes my dreams/of earthy peat." A warm, hopeful image. Celtic reverie, yes indeed...go hiontach!

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  70. I love that word "smoor". This really calls to me. I love the images you're conjuring.

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  71. Magic in both ceremony and in your words.
    The woman the keeper of the hearth
    I'm beginning to think more and ore in terms of women's very nurturing power.

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  72. Willow, this is wonderful! This poem is evocative and perfect for the season. Thanks for the education, too. I love this! I opted for the music, much to my own dismay, but I couldn't face looking too closely right now.

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  73. This is most favourite Willow poem ever. I just adore the gentle beauty & strong sentiment woven through it. As MOTH goes to bed before me, it's often me who beds down our fire at night. Now that the kids are gone, the house is so quiet, but as I close the flue & stoke the last of the embers, I so often think of our beautiful boys & send them all a silent kiss goodnight by the flickering firelight.
    Millie ^_^

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  74. simple exquisite, ladywillow! exquisite!

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  75. Nice! Thanks for the lovely,brave poem (not everyone is willing to look so closely into her personal fire), and the explanation. "Smoor" is a word and a concept that will stick...

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  76. Hello Willow,

    Pity about the Drambuie, I'd have joined you! TFE set testing prompts for you this week, whichever one was chosen. You certainly seem to have found a strong link to your ancestors through your poems.

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  77. there's a nice scene in 'the secret of roan inish' in which the woman of the house is putting the fire to bed

    but smores? melted marshmallow, crackers and chocolate? oi vey. i'd rather nibble on napalm

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  78. indi, believe it or not, "The Secret of Roan Inish" scene is what inspired me to research smooring the fire and this poem, as well!

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  79. Like it. Like the idea of seeing something archetypal in your reflection.

    Reminded me of a poem I once read by Gael Turnbull, about a Pictish woman.

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  80. Wow! What a poem - so evocative of our British ancestors, even before I knew what all the vocabulary meant. Reminds me of The Dark Is Rising series.

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)