My journeys through the desert region of this strange country have been bizarre and often disquieting. Djinns, vampires, ancient Khemetic gods and alchemists emerged from the wastes to divert me from my destination. Whatever that may be. I’m an explorer and collector of stories, occasional shaman and dimension traveller. These days you have to be multi-skilled, makes you more employable apparently. Still not sure whether the alchemist was my old teacher. Many unfriendly entities occupy this region and have trapped the unwise and unwary over thousands of years. They use our fears and desires against us. Lucky for me Anpu turned up when he did. I have to be mindful of my thoughts, they seem to take on a life of their own as soon as I’ve created them. A family skill and one that’s made us valuable to many unsavoury and power-hungry characters. Ah well. This forest is a welcome relief from the searing heat of yesterday. It has quite a special atmosphere and reminiscent of the ancient temples of the Goddess. I’m a devotee of Inanna but revere the deities of other lands. These temples were open to the elements, in fact were the elements and natural world. It seems like destiny that one of Her priestesses and I have met in this place. Yet, she seems more than a priestess. So familiar, so familiar. We’ve met before but I can’t seem to remember where. She’s offered to tell me her story, what a privilege. Anyway, my pen is ready, none of your electronic devices for me. A pen and notebook are easier to carry.
Her voice was beautiful and melodic, ” I am ready. Please be careful with your words. Many have distorted the truth and desecrated our memories and places of worship. You do not need to join their ranks.”
I nodded and assured her of my honorable intentions. It was important for me to be a witness with integrity. So the priestess began her tale:
She has undergone many transformations, as we all have done over time, to finally emerge as this weary, much travelled individual. The lands travelled through have been those of the inner self, from the centre of the labyrinth and back again. It has involved pain, sacrifice and rebirth, spiritual as well as physical. We may be aware that the journey towards wholeness is not an easy one, it is filled with many distractions, some self-generated, some not. Vainglorious ego may try its utmost to lead us astray – offering power, knowledge, position and safety most of all, but to what end? Do we accept the invitation to stay or travel on?. The language used by our protagonist may seem stilted or clichéd at times and the rhythm a little disjointed, but this is the body the Goddess has chosen to taken. She speaks.
Come warm yourself by this fire, what I have is yours. The land was young when I began my vigil and now that you have emerged from the mists we can journey together to the West. I see many questions in your eyes and they will be answered. The Soul must rest after such a journey, for we are to embark upon another long and perilous undertaking. You will be armed with the tools of my knowledge and those of our ancestors, for I am obliged to help you by what means the Goddess allows. I shall recount my life as it has passed up until this moment. Listen well.
I entered the world on a still moonlit night, the hare being midwife to this little scrap of life. Mewling I burrowed into her fur seeking nourishment and warmth, she gave until the Goddess commanded “no more”. Then my instruction began. I flew on the wings of the wind over vast mountain fortresses, silently passed through forest and marshland, and swam deep within the waters of Her womb. This is what it means to enter into the life of the Universe. The ears, eyes and heart must be keen to capture every breath, every movement. Life after life the Moon drew me down and I emerged from the East, full of promise of the harvest. Life sprang from the dark, damp earth reaching ever upwards towards the light, touched by the Child of Light it ripened ready for the sacrifice. The sharp yet merciful knife of fate cleanly cut the thread and I lay on the ground bloodied and breathless. My death gave life to others, as yours must.
I journeyed through the worlds, the words of my ancestors sustaining in their wisdom and beauty. Cycle after cycle riding the wheel of life, all that was seen and heard giving me cause for much sorrow and joy. I searched endlessly for the One, his misty form haunting my dreams, just within grasp at one moment and gone at the next. Once under a burning sun I approached a figure on a cross, we looked at each other but he was not the one my heart craved for. Despairing I sought shelter within a nearby cave. Sleep overtook me and my dreams transported me to strange and fearful places. I could see a child growing inside me, cocooned in my waters she slept soundless. I sang many songs to nourish my baby, tales of bravery, of wisdom, of magic. Her answers were clothed in words of honey and music of such unearthly beauty it took your breath away. She also told of a time when her life would be cut short to make way for a new age, I knew this well but would suffer great pain in letting go of her each time.
At the time of her birth they gathered in silent rank around me, the High Priest anointed my forehead and the birth pangs ceased. My daughter was held aloft, bathed in blood and tears, then they took her away. My blood fell to the ground and soon a strong green shoot sprang from the bloody soil and grew up towards the sky. The shoot grew thicker and was looking more like a vine now, luxuriant leaves hiding full grapes. I looked on in wonder and approached the vine, took one grape and ate it. The fruit transformed into new life, my child was returned to me once more, her heart beating out a rhythm which echoed mine. It is hard letting go of possessions, emotions and people, but you must realise that new life springs out of sacrifice and death – we all have to go through that gateway in order to be reborn. It is an eternal cycle, even I am not immune to it. Does that give you hope?
Look, the dawn approaches, we must rest now. Take this bearskin and place it in that hollow, it is out of the wind. There is no need to be fearful, I am ready to welcome you back into my arms child, nothing will be allowed to harm you.
I wrapped myself in the bearskin and lay down on the grass. Before my eyes closed I gazed upon Her luminous face to imprint it within my heart, such power seemed to flow from her, her very presence full of love and compassion. What did I have to fear with my Mother by my side? The blood in our veins danced to an ancient drum beat, this was Her gift to me. Gentle hands brushed the hair off my face, their touch warm and comforting. The song of a blackbird carried me over the threshold between this world and the next and the mists closed in. In my dreams I entered the cave of my ancestors, to seek their counsel and join my essence to theirs, this was our tradition from the dawn of time and will continue until time ceases to be. To enter the cave is to enter the Void, within its darkness we are able to gain strength, regenerate, thoughts are born, answers are given. Mother bear your cub has returned to the heart of the labyrinth.
She stopped and my heart pulsed like a wild animal within my chest. The memories were painful and heavy. This story was going to be put in a special place. I had the box in mind, carved with sigils of this ancient deity. This priestess wasn’t who she appeared to be. Not at all. I dare not say her name.