The man in the darkness ~ meet the Shadow Muse
I’ve long been a little baffled by the concept of The Muse. I hear other writers and artists talk about this being and become more confused than ever. For some, The Muse is an actual real (often living) person who inspires them. Great poets had their muses, often unobtainable distant beauties. Yeats had Maud Gonne as his Muse, Dante had Beatrice.
Some of these are people they know closely, wives, lovers, parents, friends, who are Watson to their Holmes, nudging them ever closer towards greatness of expression.
Others refer to their Muse as some sort of archetype, a being who lives in the world of the psyche and the unconscious, whispering inspiration and delivering ideas and brilliance to the grateful writer(artist, poet, whatever).
The Muse, however you view one, appears in the works of people who aspire to be creative. Study a poet, for example, for a while and you begin to see the Muse often more clearly than you see the persona of the poet.
For a long time, as well as being baffled by the whole thing, I felt sure I had no such thing, either living, archetypal, human, literary or whatever. There’s no gentle but firm hand that nudges me towards writing, softly dictating the words for me to transcribe. There’s no demi-god I appeal to when ideas are scanty. There’s no literary giant who encourages me by their achievements to keep going with mine.
No Muse for me, I thought, and felt ever so slightly inferior. Not that I’d really want to have one, I thought. Capricious things, from all accounts. No sirree, thank you Ma’am. You can keep your Muses.
Except today I realised I do have Muses. A large number of them, actually, coalescing into a small army of warriors of the psyche. They populate the hidden corners of my mind, skulking in the memories I’d rather not share with anyone else. They wait. They’re not like the Muses others talk about. They choose their moments to show up, never mine. And they’re always the worst moments, when I am least able to deal with what they bring me.
I suspect they do this on purpose. Wrong-footed by shock, I look and keep on looking at what they bring me. Can this truly be mine, these images and ideas, these dark and dangerous imaginings? Yes, they can indeed be mine. They can be no one else’s.
Fermented from wrongs, real and imagined, personal and global, the Muses bring me a heady brew, steam curling from it in violet wreaths of ghostly breath.
The man in the darkness… who stands just outside of time, outside of my line of vision and hearing. I hear his footsteps, see sometimes the words he has left in the dust on my mantle-piece. His is the face I can never see, for it is made like a police photo-fit of all those who have damaged me in my life. I call him a man but he’s sexless really, like a dark angel beyond androgeny. He’s the bogeyman adults never quite admit to being scared of; he’s the lover who wronged us all. He’s the boy who broke my clay wolf in the second week of my first term at school. He’s the boss who made my life a misery for years with snide gibes and deliberate lack of support. He’s the ordinand who attempted to perform an exorcism on me, trapped on a bunk-bed with no help within calling distance.
He’s that dark space at the centre of my soul I refuse to look at because the velvety black void tempts me to throw myself in and drown in it.
He’s the ambassador for my Shadow and he brings me the gifts of the Shadow-world. It’s no good wishing he’d bring flowers. Or chocolates for that matter. These are gifts that last longer, touch deeper, cut to the bone if truth be told.
And they are my gifts. Would you like to share them?