Gods In-Between

“In The Gloaming” (Atkinson Grimshaw–1878)

In between day and night there is a time which is also a place.

When the sun sets, but before the world has gone dark, all things fade so slowly, so imperceptibly we almost cannot notice the difference, only that something is different. The colors seem to seep from the world, trees from brown and green to grey-brown, grey-green, then grey, then black. The river below the bridge where I stood today, the hills across from that river shrouded in darkening mist, the street behind me with the rush of wheeled metal and glass—it was all there, but also not, and there was a third time, a third place, where I stood, neither here, nor there, but elsewhere.

That time between sundown and twilight has a name in a few languages. In English one can still use gloaming, in French sometimes crepuscule, but the place that time denotes seems lost in our need for concrete language. You are female or male, child or adult, gay or straight, here or there. There’s little patience for the liminal, but that doesn’t mean it has gone away.

I am still traveling. I am not where I came from, nor where I am going. I am in-between, a third place betwixt here and there. When I went on pilgrimage last year, I was for five weeks in each place but also not in those places, nor where I had belonged, nor where I was going.

Something about this liminality, though, is quite familiar and even comforting. Ungrounded from place, unrooted from the worlds of meaning, the families and friendships, the beds and teacups–I’m reminded that I carry my hearth with me, even as I yet have no hearth to call mine. A tent in France pulled from an over-stuffed rucksack, a crossroads in a cornfield on a druid mountain, a couch in a 500 year-old Alsatian apartment, a loft in a 200 year old Berlin commune, a room between the rooms of my nephews in Florida, a warm corner in the attic of some friends in Seattle, a shared bed with another in Portland—these are the spaces in-between where I dwell. They are places that are not mine but in which I have inhabited, where the hearth I carry with me settles for a time amongst others.

I am myself when I am in-between, more so now that I have understood what else inhabits such places.

I didn’t see the spirits in the willow until I looked away, nor the lady by the oak until I bade her farewell. I’d known of the spirit in the alley long before I saw it, and my vision only met its presence the day I left. The gods I’ve seen were never where I was looking, but between the place I thought I’d find them and the next place I thought to look. Not in the middle of sleep, but at the very end, not in the shrines but amongst the people who joined me.

I’ve seen Arianrhod in the reflection of light upon water, in a place that is not just one thing and another but a wholly new third thing. Dionysos not in reflection but in after-image in a mirror, displaying a figure who was not “there” but was, and was elsewhere.

I have felt spirits and presences when I did not expect them, more so (I admit) than when I was prepared to meet them.  In ritual I’ve found myself waiting to no avail, and just as my patience has ended I am made to know what I almost missed.  Like leaving a place quickly and forgetting one’s keys or notebook, I’ve lacked the presence of mind to notice what I’ve forgotten to notice.  Like searching frantic minutes for a train ticket as the conductor comes through, then finding it just as he began to register my fine, I’ve found myself fumbling for something that is right before me.

Other times, it all works, just as when the sky fell away at midsummer, the forest of oaks catching fire by a sun in a dark sea of stars.  That time, light emanated also from the heart of the earth as we hailed the solstice which warmed our world.  But more often, the enchantment is in the chamomile in a sidewalk crack my boot barely misses, or the fleeting glimpse of the Other just as I turn away.

Most of all, I am haunted by the man in my dream before the gates of a temple who told me where to look.

Throngs of us crowding a gate of reflecting glass showing nothing, like the walls and entrance of an impossible skyscraper, less building than wall. A word was needed to enter, a name which could open the gate to me past the guards who watched, and I stood in ignorance in a light rain, watching with curiosity and envy the people drest in garb of other cultures entering with ease.

He seemed beautiful, and I feel such fondness for a man I’ve met only in dream, such gratitude and love for someone I’m not sure I’ll ever meet again. “It’s Brigid,” he’d said, his voice so kind that I could not mistake his laughter for derision. “You can tell by the way the rain is falling, and what’s in-between the rain.”

And so that’s where I’ve learned to find them.

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About Rhyd Wildermuth

An intractable tea-swilling leftist-punk bard, Rhyd Wildermuth has left bits of his heart(h) everywhere—in a satyr’s den in Berlin, hanging from an elder tree over a holy well in Bretagne, scattered in back alleys of Seattle, and lost somewhere in the bottom of his rucksack. He’s devoted to Welsh gods, breathes words, makes candles, plays recorder, fumbles with tech, and refuses ever to learn to drive. He also writes at paganarch.com.