First, turn off all the lights. Do you have candles? Light those candles. If not, your cell phone with the screen dimmed will have to do. Now set the needle on the record. Or push the cd tray in. Or just hit play. Breathe, let it in, and wait for your Duende to crawl out of you.
In Spanish and Hispanic folklore, duende (lower-case d) are roughly analogous to goblins or gremlins, they are little people and earth spirits. Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca however, saw more in duende than just mischievous and spiteful fairy folk, he saw great and divine spirits of inspiration. Lorca’s idea of the Duende (capital D), was a spirit to rival the Muse when it came to artistic guidance. Unlike the Muse, which works as an outside force pushing an artist to create for it, the Duende acts as an interior force, harnessing the artist or culture’s inner passions, and laying bare their own most true art. Lorca thought Duende to be particularly prevalent in folk music and dances.
How then do we invite our Duende out to play and inspire our writing? It’s simple really, we enact a ritual. To do so, you’ll need the following items:
– Writing implements (Pen and paper work best, but whatever you’re comfortable with)
– An album (I would recommend something slightly esoteric or spiritual, like Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, or Bright Eye’s The People’s Key, but something more like the B-52’s Cosmic Thing is perfectly acceptable.)
– Something to listen on (Although the earth spirit origins of the Duende might imply using something more analog, if all you have are the songs loaded on your smart phone or a link to Youtube, that’ll work.)
– A suitable location (This really depends on your own preferences, but I find good locations to be alone in drafty houses at night, muddy caves, the depths of mossy forests, buried deep in a pile of blankets and comforters, or anything else of a similar feel.)
– Optional: Mind-altering substances (This author neither condemns nor condones the use of such substances, and recommends that if you do partake, to go with something mild, say a nice glass of wine to loosen you up, as opposed to a heavy dosing of psychedelics. You want to awaken your Duende, not provoke a bad trip.)
Now that you’ve gathered your supplies, calling on your Duende is just a few preparations away. Sit calmly in your preferred location and lay out your writing implements in front of you. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and hit play.
Don’t do anything else at first. Let the music wash over and in to you. Take in its vibrations against the cave walls or your bed springs. Fill your lungs with the scent of moss or the dust spread up when you collapsed into your armchair. Slow yourself down until the music, the noise, your setting is a part of you, flowing in your veins. Then pick up your pen and start to doodle. Or if you have a keyboard, let your fingers glide over the keys.
Eventually, move on to words. Then sentences. Write what you hear, what you feel, what your heartbeat is doing. Write the flashes of twisting blues and yellows that appear behind your eyelids. Don’t write whatever comes to mind. Write what is your mind.
If you mostly get nonsense out of this exercise, that’s okay, you can always pick out inspiration from your ramblings later. A word or a sentence here, an image there. The point of this ritual isn’t coherence. After all, are we really to expect a brutish little goblin that lives inside our souls to be coherent? This is about connecting to oneself, to try and tune one’s interior rhythm to the rhythms of musicians that inspire us. It’s about understanding oneself through one’s culture and input, realizing we are reflections of what we allow to enter our brains. Duende are all about beats, whether it’s drums, dripping water, or the scratch of lead on the page.