On the 13th Guest, Hecate Blessed
You might expect a sob story, a tale of peering in unwanted, watching plentiful joy withheld along with kindness and consideration, like a pick-your-own-dystopia, but actually, the 13th guest wasn’t invited for a reason. She doesn’t have a date, so she diverts the attention of gentleman and scoundrel alike. From her outside view, she haphazardly calls out the white elephant in the room, not realizing the delicate emotional threading one raja had with the next, or perhaps she trod on a hierarchy she could not see, being apart from it. Underfoot, it crumples or perhaps, she herself might ascend but if only for the duration of the host’s tolerance. People whisper about her, pass around her failures and heart aches, like summer fruit tarts, delicious when not wilting.
Perhaps she is dangerous, uncouth, or feral. Perhaps, she is an Alisoun, plum lipped and flirtatious. She may be greeted with the barest of civility, tolerated to save face or, in juxtaposition, perhaps humiliation is her cup of tea leaves. Maybe she is a different archetype, achingly silent. If she escapes notice, perhaps she can enjoy the party. If she says the bare minimum, maybe someone will ask her to dance and not stab at the wound of her difference. It is her difference that makes her magic. She is the violet on the windowsill. She could still be someone else. The 13th guest is piercing where soft is de rigor. She voices uncomfortable truths in the midst of people living comfortable lies. She doesn’t mean to read people’s thoughts, but they won’t share their words or if they do, their words may not reflect their body language, the covert glance of mockery, the gesture of dismissal.
This is her power: her weakness is her strength, for it is the odd ones who know of crooked places, spaces that do not figure in, the heirloom apple tree at the back edge of the garden, a sanctuary of quiet from the forced laughter, dusty from the self-satisfied and empty shallow talk of guests who have never been deeply challenged nor shunned. Her power resides in hearing between the lines, hearing the pounding heart beat in pregnant phrases, seeing patterns in the eye that flit around the room. There is a seat and a gold plate, a gold goblet, and gold settings for each of the wanted 12 guests. Illuminated by a crisp golden sun, regular in the passing of days, the light falls on a scripted calendar. Someone grabs her a dusty chair from the basement, a tarnished silver platter is a mercy. She is witch stock, some emanation from the moon goddess cults. She’s far too real, too bloody, too wild for the predictability of a Roman March.
Her moon eyes are the gateway, the portal, the beacon of etheric waters, well springs of dreams. By darkness, vulnerability is laid bare. She sees each golden guest prone in rest, the secrets of their vulnerable naked flesh, hidden by gown or doublet. She is the memory of a way roughly abused by makers of roads, by the women afraid of their heritage, of their sexuality, or their generating power. Her revolt is to walk the paths of fear, to light the crossroads despite popular sentiment that no light should be shed at dark hours unless it serves an easily understood purpose, a compelling purpose, a purpose that justifies rebellion against the day.
Her ire is the venom of Hecate. Three torches she holds, black hound at her feet. When a natural night falls, the 12 are blind. Her power is her fire, her will to See, her will to know, walker of the crossroads, witness of Death’s desire, and the powerful fragility of blooming buds. The 12 hesitantly abide the 13th, but their halls of glaring light display the nakedness of their dislike. “How could they escape the hexes of this witch?” They wonder, forgetting their duty to the gods. The 13th guest, in her distance that she wears like a cape, becomes an ambiguous figure after all. If sentiment could be distilled, the 12 would be drinking their own poison. The Moon, like her silver platter, becomes a mirror. The reflection may be polluted by rumor, distrust, contempt, or if it be a sexy or successful 13th, envy, the light of day shinning upon the stew of their thoughts. The 13 reminds them of potentiality, of a reality closer to the truth, imperfect and hallucinogenic, twisting dreams and desires, impressions, suggestion, the will to strange melodies, the animality of our waters, the void of sleep, darkened tunnels, shadowed sight. She is chaos as a house guest, but no reckless action is hers, melancholic in study, melancholic in mind.
It is not that the 13th is evil or cruel; her bearing is just irregular. The attention she generates becomes its own fuel. She exercises a power on mortals like a full moon, a moon full of sun, saturated with beaming luminescence of all that can be seen from reflected light, from outside the light, looking in, and in her vision, they see themselves reflected, their cowardice in the face of the crowd, their insufficiency of spirit, their hypocrisy. The socially acceptable women, their narratives of compassion, their safe and superficial projection of goodness, of superior virtue all comes crashing down before her. If they react to “protect” themselves are they not protecting the shaky façade of their power, their safety, their functionality? If they react because she is the dark cloud in their perfect world, does she not expose the imperfection of their hospitality? If her dark lit mystery intoxicates, does it not reveal the bareness of their own magic?
If her identity is exposed, before divine punishment strikes, the 12 suddenly see they lacked grace before a divine presence. If not, the 12 stare at her from down the banquet. If her raiment is too torn, her brow to furrowed, her countenance too grim, if she is too berated by the crooked pathways, the narrow roads, the lonely path, then welcome her with all your hearts, lest you receive Hecate’s ire. The 13th guest is her daughter, or perhaps it is the goddess herself. Despise not the bloody fruit, the garlic clove, the berries black plucked from thorn bushes burst from cemetery grounds. Give her your gold, your cushioned seat, praise her strange oracles as gifts that she might guide you through the gateway of the underworld. Smell her smoky, deeply puzzling perfume, the secret of her scented hair, and be grandiose in filling her cup. Love her, gather her unto the sweetness of your warmth that you shall not sleep a hundred years smothered by a vengeful moon, that the prickings be sweet and not the stabbing violence of a disrupted cycle, the sinister thorns of mental atrophy, or the mismanaged ruin of your house. Throw flowers at her feet, feast to her wisdom, the hearer of whispers, the knower of secrets, the seer of strange ways, mother to beggars and rich men alike. Light the lanterns; sing the hymns.
The 13th guest is the 13th moon, resplendent divinity testing your faith, your virtue in the face of the gods, your verity in facing your own life, your willingness to see her within yourself. So then, find potentiality and refinement in dark weeds, arcane crystals, feathers, gifts of nature crushed sometimes underfoot. Walk the abandoned gallows and cemeteries haunt. Role three dice to get 13, and burn fires full of journal pages wet with tears. Open your own heart to the unknown way, to a mysterious path, to a humble yet powerful rebellion. Dedicate a song of beauty to her that she may fold you into her warmth when it is your turn to be a guest in the kingdom of the dead.