Update: this poem, and thirty-five others, are now available on Kindle as The Sun’s Paces, a collection of poetry by yours truly. You can also get the Mansions of the Moon and the Behenian Stars in the same format.
On Sunday morning at dawn, the Sun will be rising in the first Decan of Virgo. The Decans are 10-degree windows within the larger system of the Zodiac. Each decan is associated with one of the seven traditional planets, and the First Decan of Virgo is associated with the Sun. It’s a good opportunity for magic and for poetry, and for the reënchantment of the world. I’m ok with that.
And whenever these opportunities arise, I like to create poetry and artwork that matches the intent of the day. Except the first Decan of Virgo is confusing. Some traditional sources say that it’s for prosperity and for a well-ordered diet; others say it’s bad for prosperity but good for developing one’s skills as an artisan; and still others say it’s great for business and trade but poor for farming; and some say it’s great for planting but not for harvesting. Some say it’s good for the relief of illness, and others say it’s great for destroying crops in the field or bringing about illness. That’s a whole lot of width of opinion, and not a great deal of clarity.
Thomas Taylor, in the Orphic Hymns translation he did in the 1770s, says that the Sun is the “foe to the wicked, but the good man’s guide”. And the nature of Virgo is earthy, cold, barren, nocturnal, and feminine. It’s also sort of bookish but feeling, being associated with both libraries as a place and an idea, and with the bowels and guts, and with Mercury.
So what do we say about a region of the sky associated with the Sun, but also under the general guidance of Virgo and Mercury. Sounds sort of intellectual, staying up late at night, working out answers to difficult questions, dedicated to the mind but also trusting gut reactions. I don’t know if I’m thinking about this entirely correctly, but this is how I’m going about reconciling these things. And now I have a bit of a sense of how to go about constructing a poem in honor of the first Decan:
Some call “Zamendres!” and some “Atrax, hail!”
to greet thee, the lord of Virgo’s first third:
Some will shout in triumph, and some will wail
at their misfortune. Yet as a small bird
will trust in its wings rather than the twig,
so do we intone this supplication
and ask for thy help in earthly labors.
Preserve the harvest, and ripen the fig;
feed our bellies with healthy collation,
and prosper this household, and our neighbors.
Steady the chisel, and keep the saw sharp;
tend to the eye, and hand, and cunning brain
that hammers steel, carves wood, or plays the harp,
and guard us from unnecessary pain.
With coriander, and sandalwood smoke,
and saffron pulverized with verdant gall,
we banish diseases from our bellies.
Help us remember the seed-slinging bloke
and the fine-looking woman whose clothes all
need repair, from her hat to her wellies.
Send the African to help with our tools,
whose subtlety and skill respect few bounds;
and also the scribe, who tutors such fools
in grammar, until their language astounds
even the wise. Shower us with success,
great Zamendres, and shield us from such ills
as may be in your power to impose;
and in this hymn we ever shall confess
the grace you send us, which Spirit distills
in you, and from your bounty overflows.
I think that works. It touches on many of the themes of the First Decan of Virgo, it asks for assistance with the positive, and the blocking or the lessening of the negative, and it offers, or mentions, supplication and veneration and offerings in exchange. It’s a way of attracting the notice and the attention of the spirit in question. It’s also reasonably in line with some of the other work (some artistic, some poetic) that I’ve done with some of the other decans: the First Decan of Aquarius, the Second Decan of Cancer, and the Second Decan of Libra. For the Second Decan of Cancer, I wrote a sonnet rather than this 3-verse ode, but I think in the long run that I’d like to write a sonnet and ode for each of the Decans… 2 x 36 = 72 poems…? I can do that, right? Add in a sonnet and an ode for the twenty-eight Mansions of the Moon… 2×28 =56 poems… Hey, look at that! I’m already on track for my next major poetry project. Hah!
Since I’m thinking about it, I suppose I can write the sonnet for the First Decan of Virgo now. I mean, if the opportunity is there, one should take it, right? Here we go:
Myrtle and sandalwood, and floral crown,
adorn you, Virgo, in your sunny grove:
Rose and heliotrope we scatter down
before your feet, and neroli and clove
perfume the air around your empty jar.
For sowing and planting, and gathered wealth
harvested from earth, and sought from afar;
for well-made food, and intestinal health,
we ask your generous kindness and grace.
For as the Sun rains beams of blesséd light
on the just, and the cruel, tanning each face —
accept our praises and gifts with delight.
Then, as the bounty of your virtue flows,
share much of your goods, and few of your woes.
What do you think? Useful? Not?
I note, as well, that Mr. White of Rune Soup has pointed out that this time of year is a common time for prayers and praise to flow to various canine-headed saints and spirits, for protection from plague and illness. Deb has written about her work with St. Guinefort, too, which is comforting. “Atrax” appears to be an intestinal plague-giver, based on my readings from Mr. Christopher Warnock, and that he’s asked to turn aside plagues from practitioners, but also to call it down on malefactors. Hence the concern here in the second decan of Virgo with good diet and well-ordered eating (including hacking the pie hole, Gordon?), but also the turning aside of illness and long-term disease.