another devotional piece   Leave a comment

this will be in the upcoming edition of he epistole, but i likes to have my devotional scribblings on my blog too.

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Cave Mother

Damn sun. Damn rocks. Damn goats. Damn aching knees and almost empty waterskin. Ha! Snake! Damn you too, snake! Take that!
Oh. Sorry, snake. Sorry, Theoi. Didn’t mean to hit your snake with my staff. Well, I meant it. But I’m sorry about it. Be kind. I’m old, and my knees ache, and my goats have scampered off, and I’m grouchy. Getting bitten by a snake on an endless afternoon high on an Arkadian mountain would be an ignominious death. And I think I missed him. Or her. My eyesight’s not that good any more either.
Here, snake. I’ll pour you a few drops on this rock, the one you slipped beneath. I have very few drops left, so this is a sacrifice indeed. Sponde! Come and get it! It won’t last long in this heat.
O, Helios. You are mighty, and you are killing me. Oh, for an olive tree, and a flask of wine, and a nice nap. A few oreiads dancing by would not go amiss either. What? It’s not like I’d do anything but look, even if I were’t old and past such pleasures. Even when I was young and stupid I wasn’t that stupid.
Amalthea! Khryseis! Bromios! Xenia! Damn you, goats! Where have you gone? You’re smarter than I. You’ve probably found a shady spot, and are taking a lovely nap. Ingrates. I leave for a few minutes to look for richer pasture for you, and you sneak off from the herd. If that damn dog loses the rest of them while I search for you I’ll nail his hide to my wall. He’s already hanging by a thread as far as I’m concerned, sniffing out rabbits while you lot gave him the slip. Damn puppy. If he were just a little blacker I’d leave him with Hekate’s deipnon.
Rocks and dust and white-bleached sky, and Kyllene and her sisters lifting their bone-white shoulders above me. And pitiless Helios. Ah, me. No grass here. Barely a twig for a goat to munch on. Where are they? Bastards.
Oh, ow! Ouch! Damn rock! Where did you come from, rock? I may be old, but I’m as nimble as my goats, how did I trip on such a large rock?
Oho, my fine stony friend! A tricky disguise indeed! When a mountain tortoise is covered with mountain dust, an old man might be forgiven for making a mistake. My toe throbs, you hood-eyed villain. Were you not older and uglier than I, I would make you pay for the insult no less than the injury. Don’t snap your beak at me, Papa. Our chance encounter has wounded me far more than you. We are old men on the mountain together, and we are slow. Here. I have yet a swallow of water. We will share it, you and I, and I will forgive you for disguising yourself as a rock and tripping me up, and you will forgive me for disturbing your journey.
Here, a hollow rock will serve as your libation bowl, my lord. Heh. What a scaly old black tongue you have. Mine is probably much the same. Let us pray for a mountain spring nearby, or those damn goats will rattle our desiccated bones when the rascals make their way back home. Don’t suppose anyone from the village will come to look for me either. You’ll have to say the prayers, oldster, and perform the rites for me. And if I have to eat you, I’ll do the same for you. Deal?
Where are you off to, you old rascal? And at a goodly pace for such stumpy legs! Well, you appear to know where you are headed, so maybe I’ll journey with you for a time. You know this mountain better than I, maybe you know where goats like to rest up on a baking afternoon, eh? No need to crane your head back thus, I’m following. Let me pick up my staff first. Not as agile as you. What a pace you set!
A steep and winding path, my inexorable friend. I’m enjoying our adventure, but I have no more water, and four missing goats. Don’t hiss at me, villain! Around the next bend, and if I hear no sound of water, I shall leave you, and maybe with a thump of my staff for having led me a merry dance. How high we have climbed! My goat pastures lie so far below. I have not been so high in the hills since I was a boy, and not then on Kyllene. Why have I never ventured here before? The air here is extraordinary, a little like the dancing golden wine I had in Thessaly when I was a young man. What a magnificent lad I was! I quite feel like him, more than I have in years.
Ha! You tricky villain. You got me reminiscing, and thought I’d forget that I’m turning back. This path is too steep for me, and I fear the fall if I misstep. I may have flashes of thinking I’m young again, but I am too old to risk a path this dangerous. And yet you waddle around the corner and out of my sight with nary a backward glance. I shall peer around and bid you farewell.
O, tortoise! Do I hear a trickle? The sweet music of a friendly naiad? I can’t hear well over the sound of pebbles crumbling under my feet, and falling free to the earth far below. If you have betrayed me, treacherous Papa, I shall curse you as I fall after them. O, Theoi be praised, a wide ledge, an opening to a cave, and the distinct sound of water, sweeter than Pan pipes. And you sit at the entrance to the dark mouth, legs withdrawn, eyes glinting at me from within your armor. Droplets of water are spangling your dusty greaves.
Oh, a pool, cold. Shocking. Wonderful. Shame to sully it with my dusty head and beard, but in moments it runs clear again. You are my truest and most honest friend, old Papa. I shall return in the autumn and bring you a sweet apple from my tree. Now, I shall sit and rest my weary legs for a few moments, refill my waterskin and bid you adieu. Funny, even though I have yet to find my goats, this feels to me the best day I have had in years. I am clearly becoming addled in my dotage.
Tortoise! Do I see a glimmer of light, back there, in the back of the cave? A torch, maybe, burning far around many bends? See, that faint shimmer, a jeweled web, like Spartan Helen’s veil by starlight. Where is my staff? I must take a look, but no falling, old man, caves have many rocks (and doubtless tortoises as well), and the light is very dim. But yes- I do think there is a passageway in this wall, though it is rough and stony. How the walls glitter! Tortoise, I see your silhouette against the cave mouth, you do not follow me further. Stand guard then, I trust you.
I will go down.
Yes, there is light. It is dim, and flickers, a red rocklight, but I can see. The cool is so welcome, and the darkness after the searing brightness of Helios. I can hear the drip of water, and my fingertips find moss on the walls. Ah! What is that? It brushes my face, so soft and light! Ah! Out of my hair! Oh, how my cry echoes in this darklit passage. Damn. I’ve dropped my staff. Here. Who scuttles away? A tickle on my ear, my neck! I must not swat it. This is not my home, and I am the invader. But I shudder uncontrollably.
Maybe I should return to the light. Deep mountain caves are no places for old men. And yet I feel drawn to go deeper.
The passage is ending. The light is ruddier, deeper yet brighter, and how it flickers! Is this a cavern? The walls fall away, and I cannot see a ceiling, although there is a rustling up there that fills me with unease. More than unease……….. I am seized by Holy Terror. Oh, what is this? This cave is full of dark luminescence. I can make out a shape across the distance, like a mighty throne of stone, with glimmers and flashes all over it. And I think- I think there is Someone seated upon it.
My nostrils are filled with the scents of storax, and smoke, and sharp water. My head reels. I fall to my knees and cover my face. I fall into bright blackness.
I return to myself, kneeling in darkness. I am breathing in short, harsh gasps. I lift my face, and see the towering figure on the throne before me. Dark hair ripples to the cavern floor. Eyes deeper than mountain tarns gaze into mine. She stands, and I feel the floor of the cave shift, settle again. Her silhouette against the strange light is lush, fecund, gravid. Despite my abject terror, I feel my member spring to quivering youthful life, and I curl over it, mortified. O goddess, do not smite me. My phallus has slept for years, I thought it bereft of life, I mean no disrespect. Be kind to a frightened old greybeard.
I have always known the gods are wise. I hoped this goddess had kindness within her. I had no idea she had such a ribald humor. I now know that for the rest of my days, short though my time may be, my old manhood shall rise in power every time I think of Her, and I shall also laugh freely and loudly.
What a gift.
Ah, such beauty. Such enormous, thrilling, terrifying beauty.
Eeeee! Hundreds of tiny legs, the tickling and scuttling is back! So gentle, yet so prickly, and how they make me jump! But the goddess bids me to stillness. A weaving is happening. Oh, what is this? My mind is filling with images, with names and music and pictures! What is this, O goddess? Tales? Why tales? Why do the spiders weave tales all about me? What am I to do with them?
Fragrance fills the cavern. It is marjoram, and storax, and musk. My head spins. I sink to the floor. Through the smoke I see Her, the feral gleam of Her teeth as she grins at me, the roll of Her hips as she turns from me. I reach for Her, desperate, afraid, in such need, but my fingers grasp only wisps of mist. Jewels wink at me from the stone throne, but it is as empty as the rock-lit cave. I sob weakly, bereft.
After a long while, I feel something cool and hard touch my hand. My finger is grasped in a beak that could clip it off as easily as I trim my goats’ feet with my knife, but the touch is gentle. Papa tortoise blinks slowly at me, and tugs. With a sigh, I grope for my staff, and push myself to my feet, disengaging my finger from his grip. And I follow him slowly up the dark passage to the small gleam of light above.
As we emerge from the cool darkness into the brightness of the early summer evening, I notice a shimmer in the corner of my eye. I raise a hand and find that I am veiled. A dense but light cloak of spidersilk is woven into my sparse hair, my beard, cascades over my shoulders and down my back. Ethereal, and lovely as the moonlight. I hope it survives the trip back down to my pastures, but it matters not. Like my encounter with Maia, it is mine forever.
As I make my way back down the steep path, I hear a familiar bleating. Papa snaps his beak and peers ponderously at me as he makes off into the underbrush, and as I lift a hand to wish him farewell and thanks, I see my wayward goats, bunched between clumps of myrtle and bay, gazing at me with their wicked yellow eyes, jaws working busily. They show no remorse, the villains. Nor should they. But for them, I would not have an old head full of winged words, words I must sing to my people when I return to my village. Words of stone and thunder.
Her Words.

 

 

 

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Posted May 9, 2014 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

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