blog description

Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

LION'S DAUGHTER-Novel Excerpt, by Juliet Waldron


 
 
 
 
Kuhre fingered the binding of the knot. It was her collar, constant reminder that she belonged to Sekmeht.

              There were ways the knots, complex though they were, could be untied, but there was little chance of such a thing, little profit in untying. She never imagined it, never even dreamed of it.

              The collar, the knots, were crafted in finely braided red flax. This collar contained a high magic. Kuhre knew that only a priestess could remove it. If she herself discarded it, the goddess would find her--in the day, in the night--in the Red Land, or the Black--and eat her, liver first, as lions customarily did.

              Jaws dripping silver in the moonlight, a crocodile yawned. Kuhre could smell creature, the dangerous muddy reek on the faint breeze which floated across the water. She imagined her churning the brown Nile with her great tail, a cloud of blood welling in the shallows. She had seen this once, another child--her older brother--playing too close to the shore, taken, right before her eyes. The great creature had popped from the element of water onto the shore, and then was gone. The instant of flying mud and failing limbs had left behind only a shriek, his last cry hanging like a stricken bird in the buzzing, superheated air. How here parents had grieved, shaving their eyebrows! Kuhre had wept, too, although she'd felt more shock than grief for the brother, the child her parents most favored. Soon after, in the famine time, her parents had delivered Kuhre up to the temple and left her there, not seeming to care if she would serve there, or be sold as a slave in Canopus.

              That long ago afternoon had left Kuhre with a terrified fascination for the armored one, these children of Sobek, Lord of the Dark Water.   She had learned the safest time to watch them in the papyrus swamp below the temple was at night, when they were sleepy and cold, but the death she’d witnessed had taught a her a lesson, about how Death walked always at your side. Death could come and seize you in her black jaws in an eye blink. Laughter could, in an instant, become a scream, and you would be no more. Devoured, body gone, your Ka would be lost, doomed to wander forever in the realms of utter night.

              Kuhre knew she was in little danger here, atop the flat sanctuary wall, lying on her belly, a white linen shawl wrapped around her against the chill, gazing down at the lush scene --the lazy curve of the backwater--the papyrus, the low spreading pads of the lotus, their flowers closed tight like sleeping eyes, the tall palms outlined against the sable arch of Nut, her star children sparkling upon her curved belly.  It was night, the great blinding heat of Ra behind--and ahead.  Kuhre knew that as servant here, she had no father, no mother, no past, no future, only the Goddess whom she had been brought to serve seven inundations past.

              Ah, the Goddess! If any of her lamps went out, old Kennet would have her hide! Thinking of that, Kuhre finally arose. After first stretching her slim brown body against the velvet sky, she dropped down onto the other side of the still warm brick wall, into the holy precinct's well-watered garden.              

              She loved her ferocious Goddess. She enjoyed most of her simple tasks, keeping the holy rooms swept clean, and the altars dressed with flowers, although she did not particularly love washing the piss of the sacred cats from the feet of statues and the tall papyrus inspired columns. She loved dancing and singing for Sekmeht, shaking the sistrum, performing with the other girls beneath those cat eyes of palest gold, while the priests and priestesses chanted or sang the hymns that praised her. In the night, led within the darkest holiest place, the small temple within a temple, she had once been allowed to look upon the smallest and most perfect golden statue of Sekmeht, the light forever shining upon her, the ureaus crown gracing her lion’s head.  

              Carefully padding through the garden, reed sandals squeaking softly as she went, she tugged her shawl close with a shiver. She had stayed longer atop the wall than she had intended, watching death lolling, Sobek’s children spilling silver water from from her scales. 

              In the garden perfumes lingered. The smell of green, of flowers and trees was pronounced in the dry night air, now flowing into the valley from the desert. There were other smells, too. The strong smells of the sacred lions and leopards who regularly marked certain parts of the garden. They were loose in this place, but Kuhre was not afraid of them. They belonged to Sekmeht, and she belonged to Sekmeht, so there was nothing to fear. They had their moments, when they were cubbing or breeding, when it was not so safe to walk among them, but she was never afraid, never had been, even when she’d first arrived here as a child.

              Perhaps she should have been as afraid of the sacred lioness as she was of the crocs. She had, after all, seen two lions eat a man once, and in the same way that cats eat mice. A pounce, a bite, then the screams, the limping attempt at flight, the blood. Another ambush, more screams, then an encouraging slap of a great paw, suggesting escape, followed by another pounce, another broken limb, and so on, until the man’s spine broke, and the game ceased to be interesting. This was how Kuhre knew that lions liked to eat prey belly first, tearing out the soft parts, ignoring the dying gurgles, the useless, flapping hands.  She’d sat on the wall and watched, with a mixture of disgust and fascination, along with other temple servants.

              Still, she knew the big cats who lived here were not, as a rule, dangerous. Like her brother, the victim had been at the wrong place at the wrong time. That man had been more than heedless; he had been a criminal. The young man was a gentleman from another city, but he was of Egypt, and should have known better. He and his companions had entered the sacred precincts without devotion. Perhaps drunk, they had teased the lions in the garden, and then run.  It was just at sundown when this blasphemy occurred; the cats were hungry.    

              No one interferred, except that the priests came out and drove his impious friends back with whips and staves, prevented them from offering aid.  It was clear they had treated the lionesses, (and therefore, the Goddess) with great disrespect. Such flouting of the proper order of things must never be tolerated.  The rest of this group, the ones caught by the priests, had gone to the Natrum mines in the desert.  Perhaps the leader, the one eaten by the lions, had been given the softer punishment.

              So Kuhre walked on, taking the quickest way back to the temple. The moon was old, but still sufficiently gibbous to give good light for her human eyes. She saw the lionesses’ eyes glowing, as they watched her cross the garden, but she did not fear, for she knew they had been well-fed at dusk.  On every side, fountains tinkled and night-fallen dew dappled across the leaves. Above, a vast host of trembling stars spangled the night with white, blue and red... 

               

 
 
 
Juliet Waldron
 
Historical Novels told with Passion and Grit
 
To learn more about the Goddess today~~
 
 
 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Why a Happy Valentine's Day?

February 14th was a festival of randy, heathen practices called the Lupercalia in early Rome. Young men and women were matched by lottery on this day. They had as long as the following year to engage in “practice sex” and then decide whether they actually wanted to marry. How many years might that go on? “It was fun, but I want to try him out next,” said the 28-year-old . The original festivities also included the ceremonial offering of a goat which was then skinned, the skin split into strips, the strips soaked in blood, and finally the bloody skins were used to slap women. Any women. It was supposed to make them more fertile. It was all in good fun. I can’t imagine that being a whole lot of fun. In fact it sounds more like some really messy sado-masochism to me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I hear.

Then there is the Cupid’s arrow connection. Remember the story about Cupid (Venus’s son) and Psyche? Venus was jealous of Psyche, which is typical of beautiful women in the mythology of misogyny. So Venus told Cupid to use a love-poisoned arrow to make Psyche fall in love with some other guy. Instead Cupid scratched himself with the arrow and fell in love with Psyche and kept her in a beautiful palace with invisible servants. He made love to her at night so she couldn’t see him and know his identity. They ended up happily-ever-after, eventually. Psyche had to win him from his mother. Typical mother-in-law. It is instructive, however, to understand that he was not a chubby baby with wings – like you see hanging around today. He was a charming, if clumsy, young man with magic arrows and a very possessive mother.

Here is the problem with myths. It might have been any of three different men named Valentinus who became the Saint whose festival day is February 14th. That was the day one of him was beaten and beheaded. He was performing a wedding ceremony for Christians in Rome, which had been banned, or helping Christians to escape imprisonment. Maybe both. I find it interesting that “valentinus” means honorable and strong in Latin. It was also a fairly popular name. Maybe any man who martyred himself helping Christians was referred to as Valentinious, and one of them was beaten and beheaded on February 14th. I’m just saying, this might be the reason we have a Saint named Valentine and a Valentine’s Day.

There are female saints as well. I know, you better sit down. There is a Saint Valentina in the Greek Orthodox Church. She sacrificed herself for her friend in 308 AD. Valentina and Thea (her spiritual sister – according to the Nuns of the Monastery of Saint Syncletike) were at a gathering of fellow Christians when the local officials scattered the crowd. Thea was captured and tortured; Valentina came to her rescue. When Thea’s attackers tried to make Valentina kneel at a heathen altar, she kicked it to pieces. I hope she kicked some asses as well, because they started torturing her instead. Finally, the women were burned, together. And that is the horrific end of their story. No Hallmark cards for that one.

What is this holiday really about? It sells cards, chocolates, jewelry and flowers. It inspires sexy lingerie. But we could just spend some money and have a nice night any old day. We take one day of the year to celebrate love, and pinning down the origin of the day is almost as confusing as the subject. Today’s paper hearts and shiny red balloons seem silly at times; the flowers and candies worn out clich├ęs or obligations. At least they don’t involve slapping each other with bloody goat skins. The romantic love we idealize in stories like Cupid and Psyche’s seems long on sex and melodrama to me. Still, love strips us down to our most human motivations – lust, jealousy, passion, possessiveness.  For some of our relationships, love is unconditional to the point of being sacrificial. The nobility and strength needed to confront evil and protect other people from harm is certainly the result of love.

Whatever it means to you, whoever you love, however you celebrate, I hope you are happy on Valentine’s Day. May the cards and flowers, cupids and candies remind you that love is bigger than all of us and part of every one of us. Especially today.  

Friday, February 7, 2014

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH THE REST OF MY LIFE? by ORBWEAVER




Anonymous was a woman, and she still is. She's posted at Crone Henge before, but that was a short humorous piece. I'm giving her a name I hope she'll like: "Orbweaver", for the beautiful garden spider. 

This essay is opinion--rage and poetry, too. These opinions are not necessarily the same as the rest of us who contribute to this blog, but it's what Orbweaver ever so vehemently thinks.  Moreover, she lives in the U.S. of A. which guarantees freedom of religion, speech and thought. When these great freedoms are exercised by a certifiable, dark-of-the-moon crone, it has a place here.

Below is a reply to a best old "ex-friend" (as Jim Croce has it), who has written to take her to task about her beliefs. This particular blog entry deals with subjects which, in some quarters, remain controversial and/or inflammatory.  Hang on to your hat. ~  J.W.



What am I going to do with the rest of my life?
 
Here’s my Bucket List, in no particular order.
 
1.  Visit as often as possible a piece of beach I’ve found that is generally deserted; it is my place of worship, if you will.  And it has more grace and beauty than any organized religion’s rock and mortar real estate.  There is no one there to judge me or to assess whether or not I measure up.  It’s only me and Mother Gaia and her wonderful ocean.  And soon, the dolphins will return from their winter hiatus and I will continue to petition them for their strength to keep me keepin’ on, because very few creatures know more about survival than dolphins.  Elephants, maybe.  Certainly tigers.  And the poor rhinos.  But dolphins are my totem because I feel one with them when I dive into the waves of my beloved ocean.
                                                                                           
2.  Continue to separate myself from those who do not understand, who choose not to understand, and who will not even give me the right to claim the Ancients as my guideposts without rolling their eyes in disbelief and ridicule.  I fail to understand why my animal totems and ancient gods and goddesses are any less acceptable than your invisible friend in the sky, whose poster child is a young man being subjected to capital punishment.  Well, like my Dad, who was an avowed atheist, would say, “I don’t question your right to believe the way you want to; why do you feel the need to criticize me?  Do I tell you what to believe?  No.  So don’t tell me.  I don’t need your approval OR your acceptance.”  I am my father’s daughter.  Live and let live.  I don’t bust your chops, you shouldn’t feel compelled to bust mine.  Oh, yeah, you Christians call it being a missionary, bringing lambs into the fold.  No thanks.  I’m not much of a team player. 
                                                                                                                                      
3.  Quilt and sew and knit and hook rugs and do whatever creative thing moves me at whatever moment.  I am gifted by and guided by Arachne, through whom my talents flow through my heart and out my fingers.  To create something beautiful is to give love to the world.  I will be the Basquiat of fiber and thread, making my marks wherever I can and in whatever voice I choose.  And even if the world doesn’t notice, I will.  And that’s enough.  Except for giving gifts to those I think will understand the gift, and the gesture.  Those are the people I need in my life, because I would like to think they need me in theirs.  Most of the time, I’m right.
 
4.   Read as much as I can of as many different things as I can.  Read especially the rebels, the free thinkers, the writers who fear no one but themselves.  There is the real truth ... or at least, the most entertaining truth, and one can usually tell the difference between truth and farce.  Unlike in religion and politics.  I will also avail myself of good films and revisit some of the old ones just for their truth and beauty.  2001: A Space Odyssey comes to mind.  So does On The Waterfront.  And more currently, Beasts of the Southern Wild
 
5.    Immerse myself in music, as I have always done.  Allow the music to raise my consciousness to the highest levels possible, because that is where creativity lives and thrives.  It is also where memory adds its poignant touch, but sadness is part of creativity, as much as joy.  And I will continue to weep whenever one of them is lost to us, because the loss of such talent and beauty is really more than this world should have to endure.   
 
6.  Keep my hands dirty for most of the spring and summer, buried deep in rich soil from which I can coax surprising things, like my red camellias in the middle of a January snowstorm.  It appears as though, for many things, there is no season, judging by this one of camellias that seems to be an aberration.  Just my style. 
 
7.  Try to separate my life from the maelstrom that is “modern society.”  I will join no clubs, support no candidates, vote in no elections, nor voice any opinions outside my circle of co-conspirators.  It is all about pulling and pushing, one side to the other, neither side getting it right much of the time, and no winners, ever.  It is a masterpiece of manipulation that does more harm than good in the long run, with only the 1% reaping any harvest, mainly in power.  I will, however, volunteer where I am needed and support food banks and shelters, because those are the things that need the most care.  And while I will continue to be astounded at the rotten things one side can do to the other, i.e., the traffic in New Jersey at the GW Bridge, I will not let it impact my life, because it isn’t my life.  And I don’t care if the airlines are a week behind schedule due to weather, because I think people ought to stay where they belong, which is, the preponderance of the time, in their own back yards, tending to their own corner of the universe.  Other than family obligations, if one is happy is one’s corner of the universe, one really has no need to go elsewhere.  Or shouldn’t have.  Trips to Stonehenge are exempt from this edict, of course.  Also those to Easter Island.  
 
8.  And finally, I hope to stay alive long enough to be able to walk into a green pharmacy and purchase whatever amount I am able of LEGAL marijuana, thus being able to self-medicate my many aches and pains of advanced age without the addiction of opiates, which the docs hand out like candy.  This prohibition is exactly like the other one, last century, which was just as ridiculous and ineffective as this one.  And save the argument.  Marijuana smokers never crash vehicles at high speed.  They usually don’t have the incentive to even go out and start the car.  And I’d rather be on a highway with pot smokers than the 1-in-5 (that’s 20%) drunks that are on the road at any given time.  Pot smokers might find sobriety tests amusing, but they’d be able to do them.  And probably improve upon them.  Drunks just fall down.  As they should. 
 
And when all is done and read and watched and listened to, I hope to fade quietly away, into whatever beautiful place my Dad saw, and hopefully join him and my godson Michael, and all the well-loved people who have already left me ... And when the crematorium has done its job, I will join my dolphins, swimming into the cosmos.  As Bob Fosse once said, it’s not such a bad end to a musical comedy.
 
Don’t pray for me.  I’ve had quite enough hurdles to overcome, and dodging prayers is more than I have energy for.  Pray for yourself.  Pray for a little more understanding, a little more leniency, a little more ability to make room in the world for “others”.  Because there are an awful lot of us.  And it would be so much easier on you to just accept the differences instead of taking them as personal affronts.  Really, all this righteous indignation is truly unattractive.  And rude. 
 
And if any (or all) of this insults you, then my work here is done. 
 
 ~~By Orbweaver, related to the Fury of your choice.