Hyacinth Noir’s Imbolc Literary Issue
1 February 2014
Red Wolf, by Anthony Rella
Imbolc is a strange holiday to me. The earth’s energy is beginning to move outward after its withdrawal at Samhain, but the season is still quite unpleasant, muddy, wet, and cold. This arc of energy is represented in Grandmother’s cycle of sleep, in which her power is at an ebb and her apprentice Red Wolf must learn to survive in his own way. When I saw the prompt for this collection, I thought it would be fun to take ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and remix the gender identities and roles of its principle characters, but only after completing the piece was I reminded that this recent full moon, just before Imbolc, is also called the ‘Wolf Moon’.
Season of mud: glistering snow
now dirt and piss slush,
fog-sticky air, muck sucking
Red Wolf’s soles in deep
as he sought work from hearth
to hearth and found no
babies sick, lovers scorned
no families needing meat
or medicine. Grandmother
instructed Red Wolf endure
the cold as human, to spurn
his guise of fur and claw:
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Beneath the Dane Hills, by BR Sanders
Imbolc represents a moment of change and transition, a movement from the cold stasis of winter to the promise of spring. Its relation to Brighid underlines Imbolc’s place as a moment to meditate the many transitions we go through in our lives: from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to marriage, etc. Transitions can be familiar or transgressive — what is revolution but a transition? ‘Beneath the Dane Hills’ is a story about forward progress. It is a story that captures the hopeful spirit of change Imbolc brings, and transgressive strength it takes to live a queer life.
I lived with my grandmother in Liecester when I was young for a year or so. It was one of the times Ma was in a bad way. She was lying low, hiding from creditors or a bad boyfriend or maybe both, and she’d foisted me off to Gran until she got things ‘sorted.’ I was eight or nine. I don’t remember all that much besides Gran being a very thin and very stern old bitch. Mean as a snake and twice as like to strike you. I’d not been watched much, you know? Ma was always out. Any other time she’d pawned me off on someone they’d kept me fed, kept a roof over my head and mostly wanted me to keep out of the way in return. But Gran…Gran watched me like a hawk and all I ever seemed able to do was fuck up. Each and every time she did, she’d look at me with her eyes, these cold little beads pocketed in her taut, leathery brown skin, and she’d hiss at me. “Another one like Meera, you’ll be. Would that Black Annis would snatch you both to her bower I’d have some peace of mind.”
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the Bride, by Sam Thorp
I wanted to illustrate and pay homage to the essence of the Sabbat. In some ways this is the toughest time of year for me, personally. T he cliche of ‘the darkest before the dawn’ comes to mind when riding out the last leg of winter. I set out to illustrate ‘the Bride’, the feminine power that sweeps out the old so the new can enter. This is meant to be optimisitic, to give hope. This is a time of great potential, to close out situations that need to end and to get a jump on what needs done.
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The Memory Collector, by Lore Lippincott
In place of the Nutcracker’s Clara (or, in some versions, Marie), there’s Marin Krespel, a solitary minstrel who peregrinates south-eastern England. His music, and his will to play the music, contain a unique magic. With the changing of the seasons, winter to spring, he is called back to his home village at the edge of the Devon moor, to his old and frail Aunt Dross. Her shop of toys and clockworks holds the secret entrance to a broken underworld kingdom, to Marin’s lover, Haldis, a prisoner of the evil, arrogant Ogstin Marv. During the transient time, Marin senses that now the power of his and Haldis’ music is enough to crack the shackles of enslavement, and fully return them to freedom and each other.
Between the play of light and dark, underground and above-ground, rests the imagery of the world’s slow return to spring, a planet whose tilt towards the sun is unhurried but constant. The heroes represent the triumph of light. Ogstin Marv and his court of vermin show the discomforting sense of isolation that can come with a long and bleak winter. Woven throughout are little odes to Imbolc, including St. Brighid’s reed crosses, little dolls made of earthen pieces, children with delicious names, snow that turns to milk—and knowing that your weaknesses can be overcome when you believe in yourself.
It was said that no one could stretch time.
No one could stretch time, souls, seasons with a power equal to Marin Krespel. At a young age, he fashioned life out of shards of glass, peeled clouds from the sky, saturated the moor in a million colours if he passed by.
He passed by once a year, when the smell changed in the air. Where he came from, he couldn’t be sure. The cascade of views ranged from the wilds of Cornwall’s shores to the sombreness of Somerset, to Devon’s dales and edges. Where he moved was as incalculable to him as where he stepped. A foot in front of the other, a path forged of discontent. Every place away from him had a value like that of home. He migrated along the coasts, playing the music he caught in the sea-born winds—until a moment came when the earth sighed and the trees released their frozen coats.
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Mulan After the Return, by Amy Chang
‘Mulan After the Return’ gives readers a glimpse of the warrior maiden as she ages alone through the eyes of a child. In the ancient tale of Hua Mulan, she spends twelve years cross-dressed pretending to be her father’s son. Mulan was trans: at least a transvestite, if not transgendered. Though Chinese and not Celtic in origin, the poem is threaded with the energies of the maiden and the crone, the imagery of winter and spring.
There is an old widow who lives at the edge of the village.
She sweeps her small yard with a bamboo handled broom
And raps the thatched eaves at gossiping crows
Who alight as soon as she hobbles into her hut.
The creaking of her loom
Tells them the laundry line is safe again.
It is a game. She leaves seeds out for them
When her clothes have dried.
Some say she is a witch.
She consorts with the black birds of bad omen.
Some say she’s merely a poor old woman.
There are no men in her house.
There is only a child, who sits crosslegged on her bed.
That would be me, breaking yet another taboo.
I am not hers. Her children have grown wings
And fled the nest, I guess. She has not told me how many
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