AUTHOR NOTE: Bog, one of the few Gaelic words that made it into English, means "soft.” It is as a name for wet spongy ground of decomposing vegetation that covers 1/6 of Ireland. Also referred to as fen, moor, slough.
A Bog Body is a human cadaver that has been naturally mummified by the pressure and chemical makeup in a peat bog.
Shan Van Vocht is the Gaelic phrase for the land goddess, translates as Poor Old Woman. In modern druid terms, similar to Mother Nature.
“Bog Poems” by Seamus Heaney is a collection I admire and from which I acknowledge similarities in these borrowed phrases— study was the wet, island of sump and seed bed, water cheeps and lisps, grist to an ancient mill, reddish as fox brush, bruised forceps baby, strange fruit.
I ended as blót, planted as a wetland offering— blossom and blood. There is little sacrifice in her death, I heard my father whisper to the men. Perfectly ordinary looking, I told them with a pout in my unremarkable mouth. See, she’s neither comely nor ugly, my mother pleaded. Instead, there was Ingrid, or gaze the angelic Astrid. Yet, it was I bound and taken away, my common shape of a head held high, my duck face, a nubby size of nose. As a girl I wished for skønhed— the turn of eyes and heart's smile. I had lived plain and spinstered. Once doomed, I wanted wart and dagger, revolting, dangerous as a witch. To be an omen so brooding no brutality could end me. They dressed me for the underworld in elk skin cape, mink shawl. I first thought I’d hang in dedication to Odin. On a windy tree, nine long nights, in old custom. But it was a pit for the Mother Goddess where they pinned my body, arms, and legs. They pitched the blessed peat on top of me staked down in worship. At the end I suffocated in grace, muscles clenched in convulse, spewing myself to myself, and I believed I was desired. And sacrifice.
He spent his hours pretending to cut peat. Digging at the same spot. A memorial to her in pitch, mud, and wind. It wasn’t the right spot though. I watched him looking out at the horizon each dusk, his boots interned where he thought she lay, and their dead child in a jar. I let him select his own gravesite. If she thought she could birth the nyfødte on the bog where they met, I let her. Squat, sweat, and pant that August night. When she cried for birth, she was close to death. This was planned. The soil cooperated. When she disappeared he sentineled like a Danish Mastiff. I knew the first blizzard would not stop him. I knew by spring thaw the soil would suck him. I rehearsed the crack of his skull. I dreamt the growl in his strangled throat. It all happened in a blind of black and snow— flurry, fury, and fear. Ja, I did. I didn’t expect the bog to take me too.
Girl of the Uchter Moor
One couldn’t be too careful, if you were born bent. I acted as able labor even if I stood stunted and twist. It may have been true, the mahr spirit he saw in me, my southpaw, my trembling limbs, my hunched form, mine witch. I stayed out of his way mostly, off the moors. I tried to heal mother as I did the broken song birds. After her loss, it fell to me— to tend needs, to harvest the mire, to amass his bilberries. I was the one to feel spaten’s twang on skull. He saw the devil in each part of me and exorcised them with purpose. My essence is not lost in the moor’s peat pickled sapling unearthed, a miscellany of hacked flesh— a foot, a finger, a gourd for a rib cage.
I dreamt I was laid out, supine, and regal posed. The townsfolk came to see me through a glass-gilded coffin. They treated me as though I was queen. The dream was a veiled ambition until the vernal sacrifice, and its potential honor. I knew I would be lanced at the joints, wooden poles to pin the body down. They promised me hemlock first. A gown and royal cape. Hurdles of branches in wreath. A privileged place in the Goddess’s earthy bed. Laurel and infamy. If I commanded the final meal, I’d chose luscious berries. Then I’d finally sleep near the fire. I did not think of the seasons that would digest me. Not of the tar face, caul-pit teeth, or swaddled fern-hair, if I rose from the dark. I thought only of the dream.
I caught a murderer because his wife refused to rise. She stayed in hearth coomb, unharmed, vegetal mind. I crawled where the kesh water cheeps and lisps. Expelled his confession long due from this ruminant tarn, before my second burial.
The last time I entered the bog, figures lurched in the tree line. A woman standing blind in the old Hawthorne. Magpies in genuflect. I nearly waved goodbye. A meandrous star lit the bare gray bog. Beckoned. It seemed like falling into a labyrinth— this perambulation, these prayers. To shed the skin of sin, along a path across turf and tarn. Twisted. Narrow. I followed the wraith winds through the labyrinth's coils. All things smeared over with night green. I saw the airy naiads gracefully melt into the waters with never a splash after. The wan moon near rise. Complete silence. It was time to leave Eden and it’s demon will. In subtle movement, I trailed soft-bellied down over the edge of the earth-lipped fissure, and rested throat upon the gloom bottom. The water dripped and lapped in a whisper. I slithered underground. Last sights: sphagnum moss, turf root, the bowers lid.