Blind inside the thick of night we can hear the barking of dogs as Trivia arrives to meet us at the crossroads. From trivium – ‘the place where three roads meet’ – she is another version of the three-faced Hecate, goddess of witchcraft, ghosts and where paths diverge in different directions. The echoes and equivalents of her dark figure can be found in folklore all over the world. Witch deities are the ultimate figures of ambiguity, with the shadowy power to help or hinder those who approach them, held in their pockets like a key. As such they are always a stark reminder of our own uncertainty, the limited reach of our knowledge that makes us vulnerable to others and, more importantly, to ourselves. Her multiple faces remind us, disconcertingly, of the unstable variousness within ourselves we usually try to restrain, to bracket into a singular dogma, a single picture of the world, haunted always by other possibilities. Crossroads, after all, are where souls are sold in exchange for some shield against oblivion, where we are most at risk of being drawn into temptation, lost to our past selves, remade.
Her name, ‘Trivia’, we associate with ‘general knowledge’, piecemeal ‘facts’, simply ‘right’ answers (‘trivial’, from ‘of the Trivium’, a three-subject foundational course in medieval education). Appropriate then that we should cross her path at this time of swarming misinformation and ‘fake-news’, when our reliance on the singularity ‘fact’ has become insufficient, the solidity of ‘knowledge’ is in dissolution as the ground of our sources seem to shatter, to point in disparate directions, facts distorting and rearranging into falsehoods. Every click on the internet is another haunted crossroad, and in this labyrinth of doubt we can hear the dogs forming packs, to guard their precarious boundaries, to hunt or scavenge, to make noise together against the fear.
This year has left us lingering in Trivia’s territories, in so many doorways, in the midst of expanding graveyards (figurative and literal), in lockdown-liminality, closer to the edge of life and the threat of mortality, desperately seeking an other-side with no sure way of knowing which direction to turn or what is around the corner. Charged with anticipated regret for the road not taken, crossroads are a tangle of home vs adventure, ambition vs fear, security vs discovery, life vs death. They are the threshold of our realm of certainty, our territory of understanding, and a place of impossible choices. We can’t see down the path before walking it, and threatened by powers, enemies, death and other unknowns, weakened with desire and distrust, it is the element of choice that frightens us the most: our responsibility for our own story, our own fate, when we are standing in the dark.
Abridged is at the crossroads looking for poetry and/or art submissions on our frenzied search for certainty, our faith in wild theories driven by fear or fury and the impossibility of belonging. You can send up to three poems and five pieces of art. Submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with poetry being in MS Word or similar format and art in JPEGs or similar. Put your name and info on the email otherwise we might think it’s spam (and because it’s polite!). Deadline is 28th Feb. There is no fee for submitting.
Image by Kevin Fletcher: http://www.kevinfletcher.net/
Abridged is Supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland,