Realm of Shadow and Sighs: Chapter 9

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‘Deep breasted Ge, how exalted are thee above all.’ The words still echo in my mind. We stood in the holy of holies offering our service and fidelity to this most ancient of beings, Creatrix, Destroyer and one of the protogenoi (primordial ones). I was someone else then, not gone but slumbering. Waiting to be called once more. What sights I have seen and experienced as to render me almost speechless. My life story may appear rather bizarre at times. From priestess, healer, Sumerian alchemist and now storyteller. There are more but those lives are not yet ready to be revealed. It is the same for the path to the mysterious ancient Egyptian god Anpu. The Opener teases me mercilessly it seems. My senses are unsettled after witnessing the death of that star. I’ve watched many pass through the gates of death but still my heart feels their pain and sadness every time. The secrets are unravelling like an endless ball of yarn. These thoughts envelop me in a mist, so much so that the man’s approach is missed. His voice carries across the space between us. I turn and see a mature, bearded man with long curly, dark hair. His eyes are bright and filled with a calm attentiveness. There is a hare sitting patiently by his side.

I look at the rest of him. A strong muscular body is clothed in a white chiton, with feet shod in unnervingly alive winged sandals. As for his herald’s wand, it shimmers with a strange magic. Two serpents embrace it, their glances familiar and secretive at once. The brimmed hat is missing but there is a short sword strapped to his back. As for the face, it is compassionate for all his divinity and power. The grass beneath my feet starts to tinge, coming to life as crocuses push their way to the surface. It is Hermes. My mentor. For anyone, especially a storyteller this is the ultimate blessing. The Two meet once more, awaiting a Third. Always Three. They can be understood on three levels. I leave that mystery with you. The Mesopotamians saw them as Sun, Moon and Morning Star.

He mutters “Mesopotamians? They and we are much alike.” With these words he moves towards me and lifts his left hand.

My fingers close round his and we move across the herb-scented valley towards the cave mouth high above us. I breathe in the heady perfumes rising from the plants crushed underfoot. Hermes laughs at my obvious pleasure. Words are unnecessary at this moment. Time coalesces into a gigantic river of thought, feeling and images. Will I return from this perilous journey? The god squeezes my hand reassuringly. Our heartbeats synchronise in perfect harmony. My prayers fly to the mother of all, mighty Ge. With eyes closed I beseech my soul not to falter in this the descent into death and hoped for resurrection. The god kisses my forehead and then my eyes. A blessing before we enter through the portal of possible no return.

The tunnel leading to the gates of the Underworld is long and suffocating in atmosphere. Never have I felt such dread. How my heart weeps for the shades of the dead! We approach the gates of Hades and its Guardian makes an appearance. Cerberus circles us in curiosity, his eyes glow with the fire of the infernal regions. I face him in all calmness and reach out. Cerebus takes a step back and then each head sniffs my hand. The Psychopomp laughs out aloud. He whispers something unmentionable. The dog looks shocked at the remark. The first gate has been passed, I shed my sandals. The silence is punctured by faint sighs coming from the shadows.

There are fires scattered throughout this cavernous region. This only adds to the air of menace and illusion. The only thing that is real is the sensation of dirt and bones against my feet.

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We hear the faint sound of an oar slicing through water, it is Charon. There are others who join us on the shores of a huge lake. They barely glance at us. The boat approaches and Charon beckons. Incandescent points of light emerge from what should be his face. He and the Psychopomp engage in silent communication, I hear their words and more. The journey across the Sea of Night lasts for an eternity, time has no jurisdiction in the place of Hades. Hermes is still holding my hand and another soon joins in the melding of our limbs, it is one of his serpents. Illusion, this an illusion I say to myself and indeed it is. I am holding the herald’s wand. The god stares intently at me. It seems I must learn new lessons. Another tale to recount and store away for safekeeping. We reach a distant shore and disembark. The shadows grow dimmer and fire pierces the darkness. I have passed the second gate and release the ties that bind my hair. It flows like a dark river down my back. My eyes blaze with the light of a thousand dark suns. The whispers around us grow louder, it is a litany for the dead.

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The shades of the dead are guided through the third gate, it is here that they are given to the care of another Guardian. The god and I remain, for another rite is to occur. My robe is now discarded, as is my former life. He clothes me in a garment of stars and armlets of serpents. My hair is braided and tied with ribbons of light. I hear Her voice, my beloved Ge. It is filled with warmth and love, she urges me not to yield to fear. All is well, all is well says She. None shall harm me, that much I am sure of. Faint light guides our feet through the endless corridors until we emerge into a huge cavern. It is the palace of the Earth Mother. Ge sits resplendent on her throne at the far end of this hall. The Sybil sits beside her. I see the outlines of snakes at rest in the shadows. We approach the throne and bow our heads in respect. I soon feel the arms of my goddess around me. Finally I am home.

Hermes and I return to the land of the living from our sojourn in the underworld. The world has changed much since our return, as have I. The god kisses me gently on my cheek and vanishes like mist. I put my pen down and close the book. This tale is at an end.

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