Two Goddesses in the Greenwood

Two Goddesses in the Greenwood

It was the night before Persephone
was set to return to Hades,
when a terrible storm descended
as she and her mother,
two goddesses in the greenwood,
noticed a gathering of houses
through autumn’s falling leaves.
Places in which they hoped
to seek warmth, food and shelter
for their last night together.

Trusting that a friendly welcome
would be offered by all,
they set their fine wings aside,
as only divine goddesses can,
hiding their green and gold robes
under dark travelling cloaks.
Demeter and her daughter
knocked on many locked doors,
yet not one was opened
until they reached the poet’s house.

Set on the west side of the village,
a home where she had wed
and was growing old with her wife,
a place where many strangers,
lost, weary and wounded,
had called upon them for healing.
As soon as Persephone tapped,
the door was opened by
two mid-life, creative women,
soul friends and lovers for years.

Stooping beneath a low beam,
the goddesses were greeted
as longed-for, welcome strangers,
where a refreshing bath
and delicious fruit was offered.
The fireplace, raked and relit,
replenished Hestia’s hearth,
while stories and kindness flowed
between each woman’s heart,
until sleep and dreams beckoned.

In the morning the poet rose
and noticed her guests had gone,
leaving a note on the table
beside a beautiful silver pen,
asking that, in return for kindness,
she was to write out one wish
and place it in the fire that night.
And so the poet pondered,
but not for too long
as she put pen to paper.

“Let the same hour take us,
so that neither of us
has to see the other’s grave
or bury the other in darkness.
That day let our toes take root,
let bark spread up our legs
and, as we finally put our arms
out to embrace each other,
let this poet become an Oak
and my love, a Linden.”

And so, when the time came,
Demeter and Persephone
placed them side by side,
overlooking a sacred landscape
where their beautiful branches,
right from the beginning,
began slowly to embrace.
With their roots gently braided
they created a canopy of love,
above and below Mother Earth.

In scented skirts of wildflowers,
held together by love-knots
and everlasting forget-me-nots,
two goddesses in the greenwood
rise rooted, wild as the wind,
with the light of stars in their hair.
Behold the Divine Feminine
on the path of transformation,
widening and deepening,
anchoring the love between them.

Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2020

“If we surrender to the earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.” ~ Rilke

Inspired by the Greek myth of Baucis and Philomen by Ovid

22 thoughts on “Two Goddesses in the Greenwood

  1. Exquisite, including the photo. As a therapist, you must take in so many wanderers seeking their roots. In imagining Demeter and Persephone walking together in the wild greenwood, I think of other female pairs in mythology such as Inanna and Ninshubur or Isis and Nephthys. We need female companions and helpers so we can open our doors to those who need a night’s rest and a bowl of fruit. I’m grateful for my close female friends who walk close to me inwardly even if many live for away. I’m thankful for “the poet” who can say so much about this.

    You can imagine how I love your dying wish and the way the bodies become intertwined trees. The oak (in my case, a red oak) is my dead lover Vic who couldn’t wait for me since I had things to learn on my own in this incarnation and a Linden cluster (also called basswood and associated with Freya) is where I feel most connected and held. The linden/basswood is 5 hefty trunks in a circle and I can sit in the middle on a knobby root when I need support. I prayed and wept there a few times a day the summer Vic died, but this tree cluster has been my praying place for at least 40 years. Each trunk is named–one for me, two for each son, and two for their lovers (names which have changed over time). The red oak is on top of the knoll with a long view and the lindens are about 20 steps from the top of the knoll on a path Vic and I opened leading to a small stream.

    Vic’s ashes are already mingled with the red oak roots and mine will be mingled with the basswood roots. (I love this added connection with you.) Thank you, dear poet, for helping me explore the meaning embedded in nature at this hard time. So much love and gratitude for those who know to open the door to the goddesses when they knock.

    1. Thank you so much Elaine for your beautiful, poetic feedback to my poem! As my wife is also a therapist, a body-orientated one, numerous wanderers over the past sixteen years have knocked at our door. We stopped counting years ago somewhere near five hundred.

      Oh, I did think about Inanna and Ninshubur first but Persephone, one morning a couple of weeks back, stepped onto the page and refused to leave until I opened up the door and let her in. I totally agree, female friends are much needed in life, especially our soul-sisters.

      That the Red Oak tree is where Vic’s ashes are scattered and yours will be strewn on the Linden cluster fills this poet’s heart with love and eyes with tears. As I read your exquisite words I imagined you sitting, praying and weeping with each of your sacred tree trunks.

      Thank you for sharing this further connection between us. I have another to share which I’ll email you a bit later. In the meantime, I’ve passed on your high praise of that magical image to my wife, the photographer herself! Love and light, Deborah.

  2. Deborah, as a therapist you open doors to many strangers, it is wonderful that with your poetry you do the same. May your ageing wrinkles grow as beautiful as these verses. Your courage and resilience inspires me every day. Happy Women’s Day!! All the best, Anna.

    1. That’s so kind of you, thank you Anna for your truly beautiful reply! Oh, to open the eyes and doors of hearts too surely must be many a poet’s dream. Whatever you’re up to today wishing you a Happy Women’s Day … hope you’re celebrating in style! Blessings always, Deborah.

      1. Extract from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres –

        Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.

        1. Oh, I see what you did there re “Mandolin” … thank you! Such a beautiful passage isn’t it, often read at weddings and I understand why having just read the longer version of this extract. Thank you for sharing.

  3. This is truly beautiful Deborah, I love the myth of Baucis and Philemon and you have rewritten it so beautifully to paint in words a picture of the Divine Feminine at work. I too love the final verse where” two Goddesses in the Greenwood , rise rooted, wild as the wind with the light of stars in their hair.” Such an image of pure love.

    That imagery is all around us in nature if we look hard enough…the Linden in particular means “love” as it is known for it’s heart shaped leaves and, because of the fragrant flowers, it was the sacred tree of Aphrodite. It is also linked to Freya, the Germanic goddess of love and truth. I sometimes come across an Oak tree growing next to a Linden – in fact next to the shores of Buttermere in the Lake District there is an Oak alongside a wonderful old Linden…I love to look at them all and wonder about the loving couple entwined together there for aeons…

    Thank you Deborah, such a beautiful expression of love and a fitting poem for International Womens Day. Many blessings, Sophia.

    1. Thank you so much Sophia for your beautiful, kind-hearted reply! I loved the Baucis and Philomen myth from the very first moment I came across it … it’s such a wonderful love-story! And now here in mid-life as I grow old with my wife, I think about how our death will affect the other and how it would (or could) be, if the same hour took us …

      “Wild is the Wind” is my favourite David Bowie song ever! I’ve never heard any music or lyrics since that pierce me as much as this song does, most especially these lines … “You / touch me / I hear the sound / of mandolins” … *swoon*

      Oh, I knew “Linden” meant love but I didn’t know the tree was Aphrodite’s favourite … and yet with its beautiful, heart-shaped leaves and exquisite fragrant flowers, it makes perfect sense that it would be. I do love Linden trees in late September when the leaves turn that vibrant, stunning yellow colour!

      I have seen a few oaks trees with a linden tree growing close by, but not often. Next time I’m up north (hopefully soon!) I’ll look out for these “Two Goddesses in the Greenwood” as they rise rooted!

      The ancient beech trees in the photo above stand at Avebury, in Wiltshire (UK) on sacred landscape. The roots are incredible, a sight to behold! Happy International Women’s Day, have a great weekend. Love and light, Deborah.

  4. Another great and wonderful piece dear Deborah, I just tell you that the only “ism” I would like to be is the Feminist and with these Goddesses, I will be more. Thank you, my adorable friend, also for following my page.

    1. Thank you so much Aladin for your wonderful response! Hmm, I thought I was already following you on my WP reader but your posts disappeared so I followed again today! I loved “The Goddess and the Lioness: Tefnut” a brilliant read! Love and light, Deborah.

  5. As poets we bear the yoke and pull the plow across the page as we attempt to transform matter into spirit. Your feminist retelling of this myth captures the essence of doing so and the divine feminine beautifully. Thank you for opening a window to my soul this weekend.

    1. “As poets we bear the yoke and pull the plow across the (empty) page” … indeed, we are like alchemists are we not?! Thank you so much Bookworm for your beautiful review for as you know we poets put our beating hearts on the internet when we post a new poem.

      I first read the touching story of the Oak and the Linden as a young poet yet never wrote of the myth until now. I couldn’t resist changing Jupiter and Mercury (father and son) for Demeter and Persephone (mother and daughter) on this auspicious “woman-ly” weekend! Blessings always, Deborah.

  6. This is so full of imagery Deborah, I can visualise each step of the way. Darkened doors unopened, despair their companion as they trudged on in the storm until the moment of welcome and respite. Love be thy name. And then the onward journey yet again, firmly grounded in the entwining roots of the trees, reaching upwards , ever transforming, towards the stars.

    Your poem reaches such depths, I can only thank you.

    1. Thank you so much Susan for your truly beautiful reply to my “Two Goddesses in the Greenwood” poem. This one was such a joy to write! For after reading the fab myth of Philomen and Baucis I felt divinely inspired, in light of Women’s Day this weekend, to pen a feminist re-imagining of this inspirational, love-filled myth.

      Hmm, and now I’m sensing I may be retelling more myths this year or perhaps this will become my third book of poetry?! “Darkened doors” love that! Love and light, Deborah.

  7. Beautiful as always Deborah!! You’ve enriched and multiplied your (Divine Feminine) retelling of Baucis and Philomen a thousand fold with your silver pen. Nice touch which didn’t go unnoticed by this writer either. I’m loving your return to the myths this year so far. A true marriage of word and image indeed. A very happy women’s day to both goddesses!! HF

    You may enjoy this excerpt taken from “Letter of Testimony” by Octavio Paz (Collected Poems 1957-1987) – lines which extol the creative power of love —


    Perhaps to love is to learn
    to walk through this world.
    To learn to be silent
    like the oak and the linden of the fable.
    To learn to see.
    Your glance scattered seeds.
    It planted a tree.
    I talk
    because you shake its leaves.

    (Translated by Eliot Weinberger)

    1. One of the joys of blogging for me are the moments when readers share quotes, poems or books I’ve never come across before and this is one of those moments! Thank you so much Henry for your generous gift of words and the beautiful, delicate and exquisite lines you’ve shared … some serious poetic swooning going on over here!

      Hmm, I think I will need to read the long version of the excerpt you’ve shared as it’s so beautiful! It’s a clique I know but sometimes you only have to read something once to know it will be a part of you forever and these simple yet exquisite lines do this! Have a wonderful, goddess-y filled weekend yourself! Love and light, Deborah.

  8. Wow. This is beautiful, Deborah. “…two goddesses in the greenwood rise rooted, wild as the wind, with the light of stars in their hair.” What an exquisite line. I really love your nature metaphors and images. They’re so………goddessy!!! It’s always such a pleasure to return to your poetry.

    I’ve just returned home from spending the morning at Grandparents’ Day at the school of our four oldest grandchildren, and had the pleasure of attending an AP Literature (AP for advanced placement) class with my granddaughter, a senior. Her teacher is Susan Lilley, Orlando’s inaugural poet laureate. What a treat to hear her teach how to analyze a poem. It was very enlightening to me, as I only had one poorly-taught course in poetry in college and remember absolutely nothing about it.

    It was especially meaningful to be with my granddaughter, who just broke up with her boyfriend five days ago, as she paraphrased and deconstructed the sonnet, “Since There’s No Help” by Michael Drayton, born a year before Shakespeare. Perhaps you know him well. Anyway, the poem is written from the perspective of one partner at the end of a breakup. It was an amazing synchronicity for me, as I’ve had her on my heart since I heard about her breakup, and working on that poem created a bridge between us that invited a conversation about it.

    So so far today, I’ve read one exquisite poem about the end of a couple relationship, and now a second on the eternal love between another. I’ll end this as I began it: Wow!

    Blessings and hugs, Jeanie

    1. Oh Jeanie, that’s so lovely of you! Thank you for your beautiful, kind-hearted reply. Earlier this week I remembered it was Women’s Day this weekend and felt divinely inspired to pen this feminist re-imagining of the classic Greek myth of “Philomen and Baucis” with a Divine Feminine twist to celebrate all things “wild” and “woman” with my Goddess-y soul-sisters! Naturally, my beautiful wife, to whom this love poem is dedicated, loved it too.

      I’m not familiar with Susan’s or Michael’s poetry but will check them out for sure as I love discovering new poets and I’ll check out the poem you mentioned. Your granddaughter is most fortunate to have such a tutor! I hope her heart feels lighter soon, talking always helps … especially with loving grandmothers! I’ve lost count of the times poetry has saved me!

      Edit: I’ve just had a quick read through of Drayton’s poem and it’s great, like a break up poem with a twist at the end. I look forward to unpacking more of it in the days to come. From my heart to yours, thank you so much my dear friend! Love and light, Deborah

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