Introduction to Obscure Goddesses, I: Fauna, Goddess of the Untamed
Jeannine Hall Gailey
Ancient oracle or nymph of the forest? You never could
draw my face correctly on a coin – was I an old woman
with a snake, a maiden poised over flowers and fruit?
She who has your back. The friendly one. You’d seek me out
in orchards, perhaps, praying for cattle. No men allowed near
my temple, my father’s advances
in serpent form continually denied, my chastity famous
though I was often the charm in the courtesan. The origin
of the faerie are often thought to lie with me but the depths
my stories buried, forgotten: the good one, the Bona Dea.
My brother, Faunus, was more famous, but I was the medicine
found in the herb gardens, the chant over pregnant bellies.
Come dance with me in lore long forsaken, in the wilds
of earliest imaginations, before Eve came along and her version
of my story of the snake. It’s my story, too, in the skeletons of leaves,
the wreath on the mantel, the hearthstone. I am the dual keeper
of prophecy and love, the hunted and the huntress.
Wrap your cold arms around me, the moon’s light through the trees.
Jeannine Hall Gailey recently served as the Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington, and the author of three books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess (Steel Toe Books, 2006), She Returns to the Floating World (Kitsune Books, 2011) and her latest, Unexplained Fevers, from New Binary Press. Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in journals such as The Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. She volunteers as an editorial consultant for Crab Creek Review and currently teaches part-time at the MFA program at National University. Her web site is www.webbish6.com.