One-Eyed Cat: Slavic Paganism / Heathenry

Exploring the wider Eurasian influences on central and northern European religion, including Norse, Slavic, Celtic, Baltic, Siberian, Mediterranean and ancient Indo-European beliefs and applying them to contemporary practice.

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Six (Pagan) Views of New York City in the Spring

This poetic essay originally appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer Magazine 2011

I.

 The restaurant — hole-in-the-wall with age-darkened brick wallpaper, old-lady peony-pink damask table cloths, the color my Chicago adopted grandmother used to like in homemade church blouses, eyelet white lace curtains festooned with paper ribbons in the ceiling, entwined with silk flower vines, glitter easter-eggs, feather butterflies in “old-lady chic” the guidebook calls it, ribbons hanging from the trophy animals, dusty green-red pheasant I can’t see his tail, two deer heads with gold mardi gras beads wrapped ’round dead necks and antlers, soft orange carrot salad a feast of hunter’s stew between potato pancakes plump meat chunks tucked in a surprise the old man with Andy Warhol hair arguing cheerfully with the middle-aged waiter reading a conservative fantasy novel, this food is better than your mother’s he says with a straight face, expecting the rejoinder as my husband checks out, tart herbaceous currant juice, the color of crushed berries — it tastes like secrets –

 

II.

Elderflower soda and female masturbation, Klimt liked his women outspoken these drawings shout, firm glance, having fun under his gaze, toes curled up a knowing look though pleasure-squinted eyes as if they could do quite well, thank you, without him, while Schiele liked his women schoolgirl, disheveled socks and withered thighs, looking away or tangled under him, contorted like he couldn’t quite even bring himself to enjoy — I wonder dimly, fat chance dimly if Mr. Art Collector of this museum who maybe bought the naughty drawings knew the very artist in Germany whom my blood-grandmother fell in love with and thought had died in World War I –

 

III.

He stands like an ancient Slavic God, like Perun thrusting thunderbolts aloft, the coat of scales like something out of legend — horse thundering between his legs he stands between the lake at Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum, Isis’ abandoned sterile temple defiled by 5th century Christians, sealed beneath a glass triangular canopy at his back. Mighty with his crossed swords, the grizzled bronze of King Jagiello does not look like a forty-some year-old who drove away a German medieval invasion, his face crumpled and haggard with determination — restive, like he is barely waiting for the monster of four centuries of New York pollution to rise up from that lake, swallowing its tail –

 

 IV.

The tiny bookshop where I buy bunny, chicken and lamb pressed out of sugar, chocolate details, Easter-gifts, white-blown egg with rainbow-tatted covering and glitter-red ribbon to hang it aloft, I should have bought the purple one I should have bought an amber-yellow duckie I should have bought more, the egg carried from the Staten Island Ferry back, mystically it remained intact — I think pagan thoughts of The Marzanna, poor straw girl-in effigy drowned in water, of the Polish Goddess Moranna murdering Her husband Yarilo, Spring, for infidelity, for love, left alone in her rage as bitter Old Crone Frost, this moist cold front rustling the papers tacked up along the street –

 

 

 V.

The subways are broken mosaic, broken hybrids of time I do not want the brown rat I see eeking out an existence between the soot-asphalt detritus and sheared squeaked spark-cleaned compression-cleaned metal rails to die of poisoning, I wonder what kind of life it lives away from sun, what kind of life it can live was it born here it will die here and soon, soon and would it even want to see the sun, where do rats live in nature anyway? Holed away in burrows, licking paws, under logs, nibbling poisonous delicious delirious delectable lipstick red toad stools? –

 

 VI.

The Staten Island Ferry is orange, the entrance a stock-ticker above your head advertising cleverly for bourbon and not-so-cleverly for cars the tumble of brown-green water flowing in its wake, sickly water, water cannot breathe, Njord lives here in this powerful and gentle flow but can He breathe, does even He a God of Harbors Ships and Oceans cough brown-lung disease do fish die regularly of this water or did they migrate or simply cease to breathe but still the sussurration flow of water beautiful the wind in hair the Goddess Liberty was copper green above is this I thought w­­­hat Athena was to the Athenians, not Patron Goddess as we understand but a symbol and really, how much holiness do you think one  bronze Statue seen with love and awe and reverence could not hold and how at this point can She not be a mythological figure She is America the Beautiful the Brave America We Want To Be but have not been for so long and were only fighting and scrabbling and struggling against the entropy of hate for so short a time She is Lady Liberty of American Dreams –

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All images courtesy of wikipedia

Vignette 1: Pysanky. Traditional Polish/Ukrainian Easter Eggs. The traditional patterns have pagan religious meanings still used in Rodnovery today.

Vignette 2: From The Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt. He liked women. Seriously. Take a look at his images.

Vignette 3:The monument to King Jagiello of Poland, Prince of Lithuania during the last days before conversion, in Central Park has an interesting history. So does he. There's strong evidence that his Christianization of Lithuania was an attempt to stave off invasion by both the Russians and Teutonic Knights who viewed it as a "crusade against paganism". He later trounced the German Knights in battle, using a pair of swords they'd sent him as an insult.

Vignette 4: Butter lamb. Animals made from sugar and molded butter are a traditional part of easter celebrations in Poland, Russia and Slovenia. Mock sacrificial animals made of pastries and treats appear in pagan traditions around Europe. I didn't get one with Christian symbols on it, but, alas, it was eaten a long time ago!

Vignette 5: 168th St and Broadway subway station.

Vignette 6: Station interior, Manhattan, and the Staten Island Ferry with the iconic statue of Liberty. Many people don't know that she's the Roman Goddess Libertas.

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Shirl Sazynski was trained by the Gods and has been practicing the Norse shamanic art of seidhr for over a decade. A wife of Odin, oracle, icon painter and author, her work has appeared in several popular and pagan media outlets for the last fifteen years.

She teaches workshops in core spiritual practices and seidhr, and performs divination, consulting the Gods at staffandcup.com.

Comments

  • Courtney Weber
    Courtney Weber Monday, 10 March 2014

    I love this! I've had those same thoughts about the 168th subway tunnel--glad I'm not the only one who noticed. :) I live in the city, too. Hope our paths cross one of these days?

  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski Tuesday, 11 March 2014

    Thanks, Courtney! Unfortunately I don't live in the Metro area anymore-- I miss the Polish food, Central Park and the Met-- but I still have many friends in the writing community there.

    Perhaps we'll meet one day at a conference.

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