Trigger warning: this is a heavy read, with topics of mental health, suicide ideation and self injury.
When we begin working with the Old Gods, we begin developing a relationship based on trust and respect, of adoration. Some of us become Devotees. Some of us befriend. We look to them for guidance, for help. We celebrate their mythos, we cry in their arms. We give offerings, we write songs and poems and stories. We decorate our bodies with their images. Some of us take on their name.
When I took on Herne’s name, I never thought I’d come so close as to literally following the footsteps of how his legend began. I’ve been there before. I’ve been there multiple times before. I visit that place each and every month.
Suicidal ideation is an awful experience regardless to whether it’s fleeting or, in my case, chronic. Mine began as an early teenager and all these years later, it’s still there. It’s never left.
For me it’s like a ticking clock: sometimes it’s really noticeable, and annoying, and enraging, and you want to rip the batteries out and throw them across the room. Sometimes you can drown it out. But it’s always there, always present.
After a shit twelve months, I’m redeveloping my relationship with Herne. I stopped writing stories and honouring His mythos. I stopped seeing His images tattood on my body. I stopped singing His songs, going to Him for guidance. My focus went to helping my partner get through our own personal episode of House that felt like would never end. Anything for me, to help me, was not a priority.
More recently I tried to return where things left off. I returned to the Forest, I danced to the drums. I felt my skin tear as my antlers returned, the warm blood running down my face and the smell of iron so pungent. I looked Herne in the eyes and knew I could offer nothing but excuses, and I didn’t want to offer Him excuses.
He tore me a new one. And I deserved it.
I never thought I’d have a full-blown argument with Herne the Hunter, down to us calling each other names and so tempted to come to blows, but we did.
I forgot who I was. While being the bread winner, the Carer, trying to be focused on our survival while my partner had over 20 trips to hospital and countless specialist appointments, while our house was broken into and our car stolen… my focus was elsewhere.
So I got to yell at my God. He purposely got me angry because He knew I had to release all the above and accept that I have been making “excuses”. He was also generally pissed off with my behaviour (as was I in a way) and he let me have it.
Own it. Fix it. Move on.
Unbeknownst to me, the darker aspects of self took His messages on. I thought I had heard the signs, but instead I had the record player playing them in reverse. I began hearing His songs differently, His mythos differently; reading messages into them warped.
My Darker self had convinced me that Herne wanted me to join Him in the Wild Hunt. Darker Self took these messages on during my two good weeks.
Generally I have two good weeks a month, thanks to a condition called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. I get two weeks where I am depression free, ideation free; then 12 days before menstruation I become dark. My body experiences whats best described as an allergic reaction to ovulation and the chemical imbalance becomes unmanageable. Medication cant balance me, the internalised anger becomes suffocating, my mind is a Drill Sargent and it just does not let off.
It was my good weeks, so I must be hearing correctly. As I weed the garden, as I ground myself in the soil and listen to songs that honour Him, why would I not believe that the music is suggesting that it’s time for me to join my God in all aspects?
As I listen to Damh the Bard’s spoken word, The Horned God, a track I have all but memorised, why hadn’t I realised before that it’s really telling me that my tribe must live, and I must die for the tribe?
My brain wasn’t right. I was not OK. But it was my good week, so it must be what Herne wanted me to do. It was time for me to shape shift, release my soul from this body, and be one with the Wild Hunt.
Two days ago I chose to nap rather than to act on that plan. Two days ago my cries for help were heard. Two days ago I voluntarily admitted myself into the Wagga Wagga Acute Mental Health Ward.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to be heard. I hadn’t acted. I wasn’t bleeding (I haven’t self injured in 11 years). They gave me something other than my normal medication to help my anxiety and to help me sleep, and I dreamt warped dreams on a hard bed with flat pillows while on suicide watch.
I am thankful that I was aware enough to know that those were not the messages from Herne. I am thankful for the support of my partner, my mother in law, my mother, in understanding that while that was the wrong place for me to be long term, is was where I needed to be in that moment.
I am thankful that while I cried in Herne’s arms while deep in the Forest, He reassured me that my place is here, not with His Hunt.
I am thankful that I am hearing His true message again, coming back through the music, coming through the questions of my GP (he asked today about my faith) and for the first time in twelve months I saw Herne’s images on my skin once more.
I am still not OK, but my awareness to what is real and what is tainted thought is returning.
Be careful of self when talking to the Old Gods. Make sure that what you’re hearing is really from them, and not from the Darker aspects of self who escaped the box you keep them in.