Little Heathen Girl on the Hill

for Dawn

The following verse developed from a daydream.  I imagined that just for a few minutes I was allowed to go back in time to pre-Christian Europe.  I found myself on a hill on a lovely blue afternoon.  There was an elm tree on the hill, and under it a little girl with two thick blonde pigtails was threading flower-bracelets.  I asked her what she knew about the world, about life and death and the Gods.  She answered me in a sort of sing-song, as if reciting a lesson learned (no doubt) from the local priest, and this is something like what she told me:

A Pagan Credo:


The Sun is my Father,

The Earth is my Mother,

The Moon is her mirror

The Planets are his other wives –

They are barren.  Only my Mother is fertile!

The blue sky is the Sun’s meadow,

Where we all live.

The night is a great dark forest

Surrounding our meadow on every side.

The stars are other meadows in the forest far away.


When I die, I shall sink down into my Mother’s womb

To rest and grow young again,

In the arms of my dear dead,

In the lodge of the Old Ones.

When the cycles come round

I shall fly up to the Moon, Mother’s mirror.

And when it is full of bright young spirits,

Down we shall fall in the blessed rain.


The black earth will drink us,

The trees drink us too.

The fields will sprout herbs,

The trees will drop fruit.

On Walpurgis-night, or Midsummer’s Eve,

I’ll wait in the apple,

I’ll watch in the parsley.

Robin or Marian will happen along,

Spy me, pluck me, gulp me down!

Two by two into the thickets they go,

Loving all night in the Mother’s soft gaze.

Nine months later I’ll open my eyes

And weep as they tie up my navel-string.


Thus life after life we tread the round,

School and holidays, until we grow wise.

When we grow up, then they’ll give us real work:

For the Gods need our help, though they don’t tell us why.

Then, at the end, she put her head on one side, looked up at me and said, “Poor man!  Don’t you know anything at all?”

Then I vanished.