Of Water Kelpies and Other Heavy Hooves of God

Discussion of Joseph Campbell's work with an emphasis on the personal creative impulse as well as the sociological role of the artist in today's global community.

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Post by saintoran » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi All --

What about the terrible aspects of the dream-familiar, like the water-horse which disturbs the surface with a tide of awfulness? Is he pure shadow, or simply the darker half of God, a penumbra of great things still resonant low in the soul?

In J.F. Campbell's Popular Tales of the Western Highlands, Orally Collected, (1890), we get an account of a dark shore/mere matrix which resonates from older gods which have sunk in the psyche:

"The legends of the doings of the water kelpie all point to some river god reduced to a fuath or bogle. The bay or grey horse grazes at the lakeside, and when he is mounted, rushes into the loch and devours his rider. His back lengthens to suit any number; men’s hands stick to his skin; he is harnessed to a plough, and drags the team and plough into the loch, and tears horses to bits; he falls in love with a lady, and when he appears as a man, and lays his head on her knee to be dressed, the frightened lady finds him out by the sand amongst his hair. “Tha gainmheach ann,” “There is sand in it,” she says, and when he sleeps he makes her escape. He appears as an old woman and is put to bed by a bevy of damsels in a mountain sheiling and he sucks the blood of all, save one, who escapes over a burn, which, water horse he is, he dare not cross. In short, these tales and beliefs have led me to think that the old Celts must have had a destroying water god, to whom the horse was sacred, or who took the form of a horse."


Does the wake of the nighmare present an irruption or leaky seam of those lost divinities? In my dream last night I see a plane flying way too low over a city center of my past and know it's a terrorist assault, another jet commandeered and hurled like a fist at the jewelled center of being -- nothing to do, no way to protect my loved ones from this assault, and the resulting damage is catastrophic, world-ending ... Or is it? Certainly I woke paying attention to the hoarier margins, dark distaffs like bass cleffs where the low notes swim ...


There are gods of awe like
Zeus or Apollo, magnitudes
of light which so zap the mind
and spirit with brightness
that the world’s jaw hangs agape
in stunned hosannah.
But there are also gods
of awfulness limned in
those high gods’ shadows
who rip that jaw away
in a torrent of wild blue,
a stampede of river-nixies
no religion myth or poem
can prettify or precede.
His source is behind
the springtide roar of waters
down the plain, his feral
sex engorging way past
the banks to haul off
all who linger there --
washermaid, dreamy
shepherd, crone and
fisherman -- he doesn’t
care, he sweeps away,
he consumes. What ire
in the world conspires
to devour its votives,
leaving behind a
harrowed shore -- a shoe,
a shift, a prayer of
praise pinned to a branch?
And though no one’s
seen him in days for
a thousand years, he’s still
throned in those waters
on a horse of black
desire, arising after
midnight in the gloaming
of the dream. Nicht Naught
Nothing, Bogie Fuath, brute
wreaker with the black
hooves & balls bluer than
the sea's, he rides up
from the smoothness
on a current we can’t see
but welcome out of some
need only dreams understand
and they’re inchoate, gibberish
like the sibyl’s song beneath
a gibbous moon, the babble of
the madman who faced
the madness square on
at the bend in the river
just outside of town
where something’s always
rising, ah, dripping
with unknowns,
his eyes so black and vast
they door the stars’ cold
infinites. He shakes his
mane -- ropes of black silk --
and then his haunches,
which dry fast into familiars
we can name - my brother,
the mean black kid in
the locker room, James
Bond’s Blofeld, the boss from
hell, the witchy woman rising
from a bar’s whiskey well,
the mother dam with
her strange low-high tides --
nightmares all who are
only water I once drowned
in and ferry my days now
over, for better and for worse.
He’s not the sort you
ring church bells for, nor
saint in sacristies,
but there he is, the
darker half of the pantheon,
cruel and ruthless
and so virile blue
as to vibrate what remains
with that flooded river’s stain,
a breadth which takes
my psyche’s breath away.

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Post by CarmelaBear » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:22 pm

saintoran wrote:Hi All --

What about the terrible aspects of the dream-familiar, like the water-horse which disturbs the surface with a tide of awfulness? Is he pure shadow, or simply the darker half of God, a penumbra of great things still resonant low in the soul? ...

None of the above. He comes from inside each human mind/body.

Once in a while a door opens, and let's in the future. --- Graham Greene