THE TRIPLE GODDESS TRIALS
Fire in the Head: Brigit’s Mysterious Spark
“…And the poems erased the stutters and pain. And the words loved me and I loved them in return.” Sonia Sanchez
Do you remember listening to your first favorite song?
You know…the one that broke your chest wide open and made you feel something so brand new, you wondered how you ever lived one day without it.
Okay, don’t laugh…but my first favorite song was Stevie Wonder’s “You are the Sunshine of My Life”.
When I was around ten years old, a band covered the song at an amusement park near my house, and I still remember the smell of cotton candy merging with my instant need to get the album with that song. The melody made me feel like I was drinking something impossible to hold, like moonlight or ocean mist, my heart swelled with cascading voices and padded drums. Almost floating, I entered a place I had never before experienced.
When the band ended their set, I tugged hard on my mom’s arm, my eyes theatrically wide, begging her to buy me the album. She looked away and then toward her watch for what seemed like hours. It wasn’t until the crowd started lining up for purchase (just as I was about ready to make some promise I couldn’t keep – like not pinching my brother in the backseat or never putting empty milk cartons back in the fridge) that it finally happened. With the warmest look (perhaps amusement at my desperation) shining in her hazel eyes, my mom informed me just how much allowance money I would owe her. Yessss.
She might have regretted her kindness. Because for months, I played the song over and over, and the whole household must have gotten sick of me singing along with the scratchy needle at the top of my lungs…“That’s why I’ll always be aaaaaaaahhhhhhrrrrroooohhhhooooound…mmmmnnnnhmmmmmmmmmmm…yaaayyeah.”
I couldn’t help it, even without understanding what the words really meant, I loved them anyway, and how the music made me feel so full of someone else’s celebration and yearning – so alive inside.
Many years later, this is exactly how language and literature hit me – in a mysterious place smack in the center of my stomach. In the same way that melodies, chords, and percussion had enlivened all of my senses, reading opened me up to the emotions and experiences of others, and thus the finer nuances and possibilities of my own.
The authors I grew to trust were not always easy or formulaic. They told a more difficult and layered truth that transcended the accuracy of detail, defied the scorn of experts and even the hot air of opinions. I sensed, knew, felt their emotional truth when they seeped into my body, and equipped me with a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me through more than one thread of meaning.
Isabel Allende, Zora Neale Hurston, Boris Pasternak, Jane Austen, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Herman Hesse, George Orwell, E.M. Forster, Sinclair Lewis…
“Love makes the soul crawl out from its hiding place,” wrote Zora Neale Hurston.
“Yes,” I might have whispered to myself from the floor of my room as I thumbed through soft pages, skipped dinners (only to pig out at midnight), let my legs, butt, AND toes fall asleep to get to the next chapter…Because deep within each new lush kingdom I inhaled the very breath, the unbearable sadness, the contagious laughter of others. I could step back into centuries only to recognize the voices of my own family, echo the curses of mineworkers and prisoners, recite the prayers of monks, endure the yearning of young girls with layers of thought as complicated as my own.
I began to cultivate a taste for something I’ll term emotional resonance, a euphoric connection between myself and the words of the author, that led me to what I experienced as outrageous levels of new understanding. Sometimes the words were compassionate (or even strange or cruel), but sentences like Hurston’s made sense to me in a way I could hardly have explained, but nevertheless felt as deeply true.
You see, words, written a certain way, could travel through the ever-vulnerable and abundantly rich territory, texture, and timeless cravings of the heart. Language seemed to provide concrete manifestation for invisible spirits and feelings, which in their finest expression simply set me on fire.
BRIGIT: GODDESS OF INSPIRATION AND POETRY
That Brigit was the protector of poets and fire seems no coincidence to me. Because poetry and fire can both ignite and consume.
But before we speak of flames…come…let me take you to the forest of Brigit’s birth in the great Celtic empire of Brigantia, which once included segments of modern Spain, France and the British Isles. In Brigit’s home, a thick forest carpeted with mushrooms illuminates a thousand shades of green. In this land, dragonflies’ wings hum above thick moss, and dappled sunlight gives shape to miles of wood. Yet here, too, a terrible black darkness might sweep over passing travelers in a single breath; and you really should be properly warned—it is dangerously easy to get lost.
How do I describe the legendary and powerful Triple Goddess Brigit, an ancient goddess who endured modernization, and still holds a revered role as a Christian Saint?
I shall say this to all of you who have truly tasted life – you already know her!
Brigit is your heart at its most urgent. And your mind at its most inventive. She is the budding idea you reveal to doubtful strangers – as though you had a blueprint right in front of you. She is the letter you write at four in the morning as though your life depended on it, the poem you scribble down on a crumbled up receipt in the middle of a crowded department store. She is the new ingredient you pull down from the dusty shelves of your kitchen.
At Brigit’s counsel, I promise you will do something magnificent and perhaps foolish. Her bravery and beauty is such that you won’t care…at least not at the time.
Brigit’s abundant red hair flows to her waist. Her lips curve into a knowing smile. But I warn you, hers is not a painting’s aesthetic perfection. Rather Brigit reveals her beauty in layers that will never cease to confuse you and her shadows will always require the guidance of your own candles. Of course, poets know their protector well. They feel Brigit’s warmth when they taste new heights of excitement and terror in their own words.
Their fear is not without merit.
THE POWER OF WORDS: A LOVE AFFAIR
At the end of my twenties, when all prospects for some sort of “real” future career or marriage and children seemed to be quickly dwindling, I spent self-indulgent days full of soul searching and endlessly thwarted plans. It was then I cast all my doubts aside and fell deeply in love.
But I didn’t fall for a person.
Instead, I fell for the words and ideas that, in the past, I’d perhaps only shared a platonic relationship. Some people have a thing for feet or hair. For me, words started to make my heart race, my ears tingle…short words, big words, sharp words, soft words. Of course not all words, not clever words simply thrown together for show. Or verbs and adverbs strewn together with apathetic drool “blithely bantering along.” No. No. No.
Words that were sexy expressed exactly what was necessary to get to the core, the essence. And they hit me hard, like a well-placed kiss on the back of the neck…
Like the Neruda poems that always sent me flying to my keyboard…
To resonance the soul rolls
falling from dreams,
still surrounded by its black doves,
still lined with its rags of absence.
“One Day Stands Out” – Pablo Neruda
Or the Sonia Sanchez poems that took my breath away…
I’m gonna ride your love bareback
on totem poles
burn your image on mountains
turning in ocean sleep
string your sighs thru the rainbow
of old age…
“A Love Poem Written for Sterling Brown” – Sonia Sanchez
On more than one occasion, I stayed up all night, called out of work, declined social invitations, ate dinner by my keyboard, sacrificed dates for my new “relationship,” until more than a few people asked with a little awkward hesitation “Um, Kim are you okay?”
Actually, I wasn’t sure. Like most people in love, an exhilarating fog seemed to be consuming my entire head and the mist was moving in fast on the rest of my body! I mean, I didn’t exactly feel “happy,” but I felt so damn satisfied and at the same time hungry for more of my delicious, beloved fog…And who was I kidding? I was in so deep…I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself anyway.
Consonant against vowel, blank space against paragraphs, the clickety-clack of the keyboard came like flames rushing up through hot air – with no time for inconvenient questions or cold feet.
Of course, the thrill of creation didn’t guarantee me top-notch or publishable content (hardly). In fact, my writing “sessions” often heralded in chin-tucking and shameful morning afters. But, I’m going to argue that every writing session brought me further and further down a crucial difficult path of self-discovery that for the first time in my life had nothing to do with external accomplishment (or failure), and was far more important than any certificate or degree.
I knew I was more alive than I’d ever been before.
What began to matter most was that feeling underneath the keyboard, the vigorous energy created, the uncontrollable ecstasy of walking inside Brigit’s fire. On good days, I felt like I’d landed in a virtual fountain of youth. Yet on others, a horribly painful emptiness and mortifying self-doubt made me want to hide under the covers.
In Brigit’s forest, night comes quickly and without warning. You’ll detect the shape of vultures waiting for your fatigue in the blur of dusk. The same trees that inspired you will blend into a confusing wall and ceiling. In the rapid darkness, twigs will snap beneath your steps and you might jump up in alarm at your own rising shadow.
At this moment, it’s likely you’ll think about the worthlessness of your trip, the inevitability of failure, you may even curse Brigit herself, and the risk you took in following your instincts. What for? With each thought, another confusing turn, another circle backwards.
But…on good days…if you dare to follow her all the way, in the very moment you throw up your hands and finally laugh at your mistakes, you’ll start to feel an opening in the hollow of your stomach…a crack of light beckoning you through the distance.
Should you finally make it to Brigit’s pastures, her cows never lack milk, skies remain pale blue deep into the night and wildflowers bloom and bloom. In this land, it is impossible NOT to scream your joy to the hills. For you will feel quite confident that your life will never end.
It won’t be long, however, that you will be equally certain (and once again horrified) that your time has long since passed.
Which is why you must come kneeling when you detect the tiniest spark of Brigit’s kingdom. Only then can she instruct you in the hard-knock school of your own magic…born in the nature of flames…which flare brightly, then almost disappear into the darkness again and again and again.
TENDING BRIGIT’S FLAMES
You see, loving and honoring Brigit demands more bravery than that of any other Goddess. In order to walk in her eternal spring, you must remove your own skin and blood and throw it to the callous opinions of others. You must investigate and uncover the contradictions of your own heart to a fire that might leave you completely exposed.
Let me tell you straight up, the shameful humility of ash is never far away. To understand the fertility of Brigit, you must taste your own barrenness and hold its flavor on your tongue, turn around and name your every shadow, maybe even laugh out loud at the harsh smoke obscuring your breath…that is only after you cry.
So it was in Brigit’s lonely forest, I learned the hardest and perhaps most important of her lessons – how to trust my own flames by seeking out the warmth of others. According to scholar, Barbara Walker, “Brigit’s 19 priestesses at Kildare kept an ever-burning fire like that of the temple of Vesta in Rome.” These women were entrusted with keeping the fire lit no matter the external circumstances.
My opinion is that by entrusting her mysterious flame to a group of kindred spirits, Brigit saw to it that her energy would be reinvigorated again and again. After all, there are countless ways to coax dimmed ashes into fire once there is more than a single source tending the flame.
Every time we speak up and feel sparks fly, every time we awaken ourselves through listening…to a singer, a novelist, a friend, a neighbor, a spouse, a child, a parent, an artist, a lover, a comedian, a book, an enemy, an ancestor, a sibling, a poet…we tend the flame.
In this circle, even friction can create endless light. Sharing a new idea, a way to laugh, a way to fight, a way to cry, we strike another match to flare out against the darkness, a new expression rising up in light and warmth.
“Lift up your eyes
Upon this day breaking for you
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palm of your hands,
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts…”
“On the Pulse of Morning” – Maya Angelou
In 2006, Kimberly Nagy founded Wild River Review with Joy E. Stocke; and in 2009, they founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC. With more than twenty years in the field of publishing, Nagy specializes in market outreach and digital media strategies as well as crafting timeless articles and interviews. She edits many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.
Kimberly Nagy is a poet, professional writer, and dedicated reader who has interviewed a number of leading thinkers, including Academy-Award winning filmmaker, Pamela Tanner Boll, MacArthur Genius Award-winning Edwidge Danticat, historian James McPherson, playwright Emily Mann, biologist and novelist, Sunetra Gupta and philosopher Alain de Botton.
Nagy is an author, editor and professional storyteller. She received her BA in history at Rider University where she was influenced by professors who stressed works of literature alongside dates and historical facts–as well as the importance of including the perspectives of women and minorities in the historical record. During a period in which she fell in love with writing and research, Nagy wrote an award-winning paper about the suppression of free speech during World War I, and which featured early 20th century feminist and civil rights leader, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.
Nagy continued her graduate studies at University of Connecticut, Storrs, where she studied with Dr. Karen Kupperman, an expert in early contact between Native Americans and the first European settlers. Nagy wrote her Masters thesis, focusing on the work of the first woman to be accepted into the Connecticut Historical Society as well as literary descriptions of Native Americans in Connecticut during the 19th century. Nagy has extensive background and interest in anthropological, oral history and cultural research.
After graduate school, Nagy applied her academic expertise to a career in publishing, in which she worked for two of the world’s foremost publishers—Princeton University Press and W.W. Norton—as well as at Thomson, Institutional Investor Magazine, Routledge UK, and Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.
Kimberly Nagy in this Edition
AIRMAIL – LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AIRMAIL – VOICE FROM SYRIA
ARTS – ART
ARTS – FILM REVIEWS
ARTS – MUSIC
ARTS – PHOTOGRAPHY
The Triple Goddess Trials: Fire in the Head: Brigit’s Mysterious Spark
The Triple Goddess Trials: Introduction
The Triple Goddess Trials – Meeting Virginia Woolf at the Strand
The Triple Goddess Trials: Me and Medusa
The Triple Goddess Trials: Aphrodite and the Lightbulb Factory
The Triple Goddess Trials: Goddess of Milk and Honey
The Triple Goddess Trials: Kali’s Ancient Love Song
ASHLEY – Renee Ashley: A Voice Answering a Voice
BELLI – Giocanda Belli – The Page is My Home
BOLL – Pamela Tanner Boll: Dangerous Women: An Interview with Academy Award Winner Pamela Tanner Boll
DANTICAT – Create Dangerously- A Conversation with Edwidge Danticat
CHARBONNEAU – A Cruise Along the Inside Track: With Le Mobile’s Sound Recording Legend Guy Charbonneau
de BOTTON – The Art of Connection: A Conversation with Alain de Botton
GUPTA – Suneptra Gupta – The Elements of Style: The Novelist and Biologist Discusses Metaphor and Science
HANDAL – Nathalie Handal – Love and Strange Horses
KHWAJA – Waqas Khwaja: What a Difference a Word Makes
MAURO: New World Monkeys: An Interview with Nancy Mauro
MORGANSing, Live, & Love Like You Mean It: An Interview with Bertha Morgan
MOSS – Practical Mystic–Robert Moss: On Book Families, Jung and How Dreams Can Save Your Soul
OGLINE – BEN FRANKLIN.COM: Author & Illustrator Tim Ogline explains why Ben Franklin would be a technology evangelist today
OLSEN – Greg Olsen – Reaching for the Stars: Scientist, Entrepreneur and Space Traveler
PALYA – Beata Palya – The Secret World of Songs
SCHIMMEL – Moonlight Science: A Conversation with Molecular Biologist and Entrepreneur, Paul Schimmel
SHORS – Journey into the Male & Female Brain: An Interview with Tracey Shors
von MOLTKE and SIMMS – Dorothy von Moltke and Cliff Simms: Why Independent Bookstores Matter, Part I
WARD – On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part One, and
On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part Two
WILKES – Labor of Love: An Interview With Architect Kevin Wilkes
LITERATURE – MEMOIR
LITERATURE – POETRY
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library at 100: From the Stacks to the Streets
Paul Holdengraber: The Afterlife of Conversation
That Email Changed My Life: Rolex Arts Initiative. Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Tracy K. Smith Celebrates Rolex Arts Initiative
First Editions / Second Thoughts — Defending Writers: PEN and Christie’s Raise One Million Dollars to Support Freedom of Expression
ON AFRICA: May 4 to May 10 — Behind the Scenes with Director Jakab Orsos: Co-curated by Award-Winning Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Page is My Home: Giaconda Belli – Nicaraguan Poet, Writer and Public Intellectual
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
The Power of Conversation: David Grossman and Nadine Gordimer – The Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture
NEW FROM WILD RIVER BOOKS – Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library
Wild River Books Announces the Stoutsburg Cemetery Project: The Untold Stories of an African American Burial Ground in New Jersey
Wild River Books: Surprise Encounters by Scott McVay
Wild River Review and Minerva’s Bed & Breakfast Presents – “BITTER” Writing in a Weekend: How to Write About the Things We Can’t Change
ALLEN – Quarks, Parks, and Science in Everyday Life: Filmmaker Chris Allen’s Documentary Where Art Meets Science in a Vacant Lot
HOLT – Rush Holt: An Interview with Rush Holt
MANN – Boundless Theater: An Interview with Emily Mann
Keeping Time: A Conversation with Historian James McPherson