Archive for March 2015

Iasonia   2 comments

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today is one of the most important days in my own personal devotional calendar, the self-created festival of the Iasonia. it commemorates the union of Demeter and Iason, and his destruction by Zeus, as described in the cretan myth.

the day has components of ekstasis and mourning, a little like the Adonia, and like the Adonia it focuses on the ancient cycles of fertility, fruition, death and rebirth. i’m not always able to go deep, but sometimes i can. i hope i can today. when i do, the mourning phase is exquisite- terrible and wonderful. and brings me briefly but gloriously in synch with Her.

Io, Demeter Khloe!

i’m posting an older piece i wrote several years ago in honor of today. sorry for all the self-writings i’m posting lately! at some point i’ll just blog again<G>.

🙂 khairete

suz

The Thrice-Ploughed Field

I move through my fields of undulating grain, fingertips trailing through the bearded grasses, hair unbound, sun warming my skin. He is there. His back is bent as he works over his plough, the oxen’s shoulders moving placid and slow, the plough cutting deep into my rich, dark earth. Sweat gleams on his broad back, his hair cornsilk under the sun. I stop at the edge of the field, half-concealed amid the whispering stalks of grain, mesmerized, entranced, as he urges his beasts on, working the soil, the plough turning the earth into good straight furrows, long and inviting, awaiting the seed.
My sister watched me as I left, eyeing me sidelong under her lashes, one white hand sliding along her gemmed girdle, laces loosened, proffering. I smiled at her and shook my head. No need for that, not now, not for him. We are of one mind, she and I.
He turns the oxen and they return, slow and inexorable as the seasons. The surface of the earth is dry and crumbly, but underneath it is damp and dark, fecund. Its rich scent mingles with that of the sweet grass that tickles my calves. I see the curve of his upper arm as he manhandles the plough into the turn, the lines of his thigh muscles as he strains forward with his beasts, his teeth flashing white as he calls encouragement to them, wiping the sweat from his brow. He is golden-brown, sweet as roasted barley, and his eyes are blue as the shallows of the Aegean.
Three times he drives his oxen the length and breadth of the field, three times the soil is raised, turned, combed, silkened, until it is soft, moist, pliable as coarse flour. He brings the team to a halt, speaks softly to them, scratches their thick necks, laughs like a boy when they rub their broad heads against him, unharnesses them, hobbles them to graze. He looks over his handiwork, stretches, sighs, smiles.
I step forth out of the tall grass.
He sees the movement, straightens, stands motionless, staring. I move toward him, my wheaten hair whirling around my hips, my green gown rippling. As I move toward him my fingers play in the ties to my golden girdle, loosen them, drawing his eyes, where they widen and fix, blue and shocked. I drift to a stop before him, my gown parting slightly, and those eyes lift to my face and meet mine, and the shock startles us both. I move swiftly forward and his warm strong arms catch me up and pull me desperately to him, his sweet sweet mouth on mine. And we fall to the receptive earth.
The ploughing is strong, the furrow deep, the seed vigorous.
As my lover nears the third sowing I see over his straining shoulders, his bright hair, the thunderheads piling up in the heavens. My heart leaps. He is coming, my brother, my lover, my lord, He who will bless this planting with fruitfulness and immortality. A few drops of rain patter down, cool drops sliding on my love’s hot sweet salty skin and I taste it, exquisite. Thunder mutters softly, a gentle threat, then builds to a bellow like a great bull, even as my man rears over me and roars back at the sky, eyes closed, face contorted with divine ecstasy. And as his seed spurts forth yet again we are blinded by the God’s shaft, the bolt stabbing down from the roiling chaos of clouds, impaling my love. The blue eyes fly open, stare aghast into my face, freezing my heart with the unspoken cry of terror and betrayal. I scream aloud in love and loss, and in the instant before my love is vaporized, I see those beautiful eyes light with comprehension, and his final whisper is of love and acceptance.
The thunder rolls, is muted, wanders away over the sea, lightning flashing spasmodically. I lie in the ploughed furrow, naked under the driving rain, drenched, spent, weeping, exultant.
The seed lies deep within the earth. In the turning of the seasons it sprouts, pushes forth, emerges, thrusts eagerly upward. Thousands, millions, countless polished, perfect grains, replicating themselves in the endless miracle of growth. Their mortality is essential to the immortal cycle. There are so many, so very many, mortals cannot comprehend how even a goddess can know and love them all. But each beloved seed is unique, incredible, wondrous, and is utterly known by me and held in my divine love. A love and bounty I can share with humankind because of my lost, yet eternal, immortal, infinitely precious lover, Iasion.

Posted March 30, 2015 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

installment #4 of ‘dark horses’   4 comments

Missing

A pair of hawks dances a complex duet of lazy circles, high in the mild afternoon sky. Small clouds dance with them, pirouetting, separating, re-forming, bright white and cheerful, spring celebrants. A small brown rabbit is flat and motionless near a stand of young ash trees, quivering when the cries of the hawks float down, or their shadows brush the grass.
The two women guarding the herd of goats resemble the rabbit more than the hawks. New grass ripples at their feet, a playful breeze tugs at their hair, but they do not sing, or play with the baby goats, or speak to each other. The beauty of the afternoon seems to leave them unmoved, untouched. They are together in their bleakness, but there is no sense of solidarity. They sit on the same large boulder, watching resolutely, but they do not look at each other. The young rabbit trying to make himself invisible to the terrible predators in the sky seems more in tune with the Arkadian springtime than the goatherds.
The sun is sinking when a trio of figures trudges over the hill, and down the meadow toward the goats and their keepers. The younger of the two leaps to her feet, but halts when she sees the weary attitude of the newcomers, and her shoulders slump. ‘Eleni. They’re back. It doesn’t look good.’
A small wan face looks up briefly, then disappears again behind a tangle of colorless hair. She says nothing.
Hoping against all logic, the girl waits, fingernails digging painful crescents in her palms. But the face of the big man who reaches her first answers all her questions. Stefano touches her cheek, lines of weariness graven deeply around his mouth. Her eyes meet his, and he shakes his head slowly. ‘Nothing, Kiri. We found nothing.’
The youngest of the three men steps out from behind the others, straightening his shoulders. ‘Not nothing, Stefano. Tales of loss, from every quarter. We are not the only ones to lose children. Something is stalking these hills and valleys.’
The third man snarls, ‘And what loss is yours? I know of no family you have lost, lyre-plucker.’ The sneer in his voice is belied by the desperation in his eyes.
Stefano’s deep voice is gentle. ‘Kephalos. The bard is here to help. Don’t vent your anger on him.’
Kephalos does not answer. As he turns to the slight form of the silent woman, his voice catches in a sob. ‘We will find her, Eleni. I swear before the Gods we will. On the bones of my ancestors, I swear it. By blood and blade….’
‘Kephalos!’ gasps Kiri. ‘You mustn’t! Eleni needs you! We all do! Do not swear oaths you may not keep!’
Kephalos gathers the unresisting form of his wife to him, doubling over as if he has taken a punch to the gut. ‘If I break the oath, what of it? If we do not find our daughter, the kakodaimones can take me.’ But he does not finish the oath.
‘Where is Mother?’ asks Kiri, unable to look at the couple huddled under the boulder, frozen in grief.
‘She took Karissa back to the hut. The little one was exhausted. She’s preparing a meal for us. Let’s go. We don’t want to be out on the mountain when darkness falls.’ Stefano sighs, looks out over the goats scattered throughout the meadow, and gives a piercing whistle. Three large dogs leap from their invisible vantage points in the grass and begin to round up the goats. Goats, dogs and humans move slowly through the red sunset.
A curl of fragrant smoke wafts from inside the small hut nestled against the mountain’s hip. While the men pen the goats, Kiri and Eleni step inside to find Aglaia wearily boiling roots in the cauldron, tempering their toughness with herbs and some shreds of dried goat meat, a sprinkling of precious sea salt. Little Karissa is wound into a ball on a pile of skins in the corner, so deeply asleep that not even the smell of hot food rouses her. Kiri touches her mother’s arm. Aglaia pauses for a brief moment, but does not speak nor look at her older daughter. Kiri drops her hand. She turns to the motionless figure of Eleni huddled near the door, and draws her closer to the fire.
The group eats in frozen silence.
As Kiri begins to clear the bowls, a sob escapes Aglaia. ‘I hope Patrokles gets something to eat tonight.’ She sinks to the floor, face covered, shoulders shaking. Stefano enfolds her in his big arms. Karissa stirs and moans. Kiri goes to her and picks her up, hushing her, and carries her to fire where she dips a hard loaf end into the bit of stew remaining at the bottom of the pot and feeds the little girl as if she were a baby. She looks up at the others.
‘What happened today? Did you learn anything? Find anything?’
The older men do not move or speak. Both stare heavily into the fire. Aglaia lifts her head with an effort, but when her eyes touch her daughter’s she winces and looks away. Lips tightening, Kiri turns to the young bard sitting diffidently by the door.
‘Lykeios. Tell me.’
He glances at the other men, who remain motionless and silent. Then, looking at Kiri’s scowl, he squares his shoulders and instinctively reaches over for his lyre, then drops his hand sheepishly. But even without music, his voice takes on the rhythm and tenor of a trained bard.
‘In the highlands of Akhaea we met a family performing the burial rites over a girl. I have never seen such grim faces. They threatened us with angry words, but when we persuaded them of our quest, they told us what had occurred.
Some days before, the daughter of the family, a maiden of ten or eleven years, began to speak of visions of wonder. She talked of cups of gold, clouds with wings, bowls overflowing with honey and milk, daimones of perilous beauty. They dismissed her talk as the fantasies of a silly girl, but one evening as dusk fell, she was seen running as fast as a hind of Artemis, along a pathway that led to the mountains, and disappeared into the foothills. Her brother set out to find her, but her speed left him far behind, and he was unable to track her in the gloom. He persevered, however, coming finally to a ghastly waste of broken rock and withered scrub and thorns that tore his legs, and there he saw, dimly in the darkness, a horse. It was thin and lame, wasted hindquarters barely as broad as a stick, and there was a body flung across its back. He ran to it, ignoring the injuries to his feet, and dragged the body from the horse. He recognized the shift and scratched legs of his sister. But the body had no head. And as he cried out in horror, the horse turned to him, and he saw that the horse was likewise headless, its neck oozing. He picked up the body of his sister and tried to flee, but the horse came after him and knocked him down among the rocks, rearing and kicking at him with jagged hooves.
As he tried to escape among the boulders and scrub, dragging the body of the girl after him, she too jerked into a semblance of life and fought him, tearing at him with nails and kicking as hard as the horse.
The boy battled both of them valiantly until rosy-fingered Dawn cast veils of grey into the east. He was finally able to stab the horse between the ribs with a sharp stick, causing dark blood to gush, and it retreated. His last glimpse of it was worse than any part of the battle, for it rendered down, like fat in a fire, and became a mass of darkness, which slithered away among the stones, leaving a viscous trail which clung to his feet.
I saw his feet. They were blackened as if he had been barefoot in a blizzard. He is lame now, and silent.
When the thing left, the body of the girl collapsed and became as any other dead thing.
They burned her, and buried the ashes. They did not find her head.’
Kiri stares at him. Karissa begins to whimper. Aglaia takes her from Kiri’s unresponsive arms, and lies down with her in a dark corner, cuddling and singing softly to her. Lykeios steadily returns Kiri’s wide-eyed gaze. The two older men sit stolidly, staring at the fire.
Kiri wets her lips. It takes two tries before she can choke out words. ‘Is there more?’
Lykeios closes his eyes briefly, then meets hers once more. ‘Yes,’ he says softly.
‘Tell me.’
Kephelos draws Eleni’s slight form more closely to his side. ‘Eleni doesn’t need to hear this. We’ll retire, over by Aglaia and Karissa.’
But Eleni pulled sharply away from him. ‘I will hear,’ she says. Her soft voice has an undertone of iron. Kephelos starts to protest, but subsides when she stares at him, lips pressed in a thin line. ‘Speak on, bard.’
Lykeios meets Kiri’s uncompromising eyes, wets his lips and continues.
‘We met a group of traders making their way inland from Elis at great speed, carrying almost no merchandise. We shared food and fire with them on the bank of the Erymanthos, and heard their tale. They did not experience these events personally, but spoke to the sailors who did.
A trade ship was heading north from Lakonia with a cargo of wine, oil and a few trained warhorses. They came inland to replenish their fresh water supplies at a river mouth, and were setting out again around dusk when they heard loud moaning coming from a small cove near a region of sea-caves. Thinking there may have been a wrecked ship in need of rescue (or plunder, who knows?), they rowed into the shallow waters and called out. But as the nose of their boat nudged the soft sand, there came a scrabbling at the sides, and a terrible stench. And as the sailors crowded to see what was assailing their vessel, there came swarming onto the deck a crowd of small forms. They were children. They were rotting. Their flesh was sliding from their bones, and their teeth gleamed in the gloaming. They shambled toward the sailors, crying and moaning, sobbing that they had come to find Amphitrite, but She would not be their Mother. And the children fell upon the sailors, gnawing and ripping. They were slow, and weak, and easy to dismember, but they were desperate and many. The ship was stuck in the sand, and no man could free himself from the fight against the children to dislodge it.
The battle should have been over in minutes, but the sailors say it seemed to take all night. It was not until the dawn began to steal over the sea that they were able to beat back the still-shambling dead children, who sank like stones as they were shoved from the ship. Finally they were able to float free with the tide. They found that three of their number had been torn to pieces and partially devoured. They performed the rites, and consigned the bodies of their mates to the sea and to Amphitrite’s care. And they sailed as fast and far as they could.
That night as darkness fell over the waters they heard the voices of their dead crewmates, crying from the waves. And the dead men came climbing over the sides of the ship, moaning and begging for their friends to share food with them, that they were starving. Their skins no longer knit closely over their torn organs, and some carried their limbs or their soft inner parts in their arms.
The crew had to kill their shipmates again, and scatter the body parts.
The casks of wine and oil were shattered and lost, and the warhorses went mad and leapt into the sea. The crew made harbor with no further adventures, but every man’s hair has turned pure white, and none will venture forth onto the shining surface of Poseidon’s realm again.’
Eleni’s eyes shine wetly in the fading firelight, but her soft jaw remains firm. ‘Did they describe the children? Did they say how old they were?’
Kephalos replies, ‘No, Eleni. I asked these same questions. The traders did not know, and did not tolerate our questions. They were angry at not being able to trade their goods, and very afraid of what they heard. They just wanted to get out of the region, and go as quickly as possible to the Attikan plain and put this land behind them.’
As Eleni’s face sinks into her hands, Kephalos catches Lykeios’s eye and shakes his head faintly. Stefano, Lykeios and Kiri sit in silence while Kephalos gently but firmly nudges his wife to their pile of furs, some distance from the fire. Not far from them lie Aglaia and Karissa, twitching and murmuring together in unquiet sleep.
When quiet has fallen back on the little hut, Kiri adds more wood to the fire, and turns to Lykeios. Her whisper can barely be heard above the crackle of new wood beginning to burn. ‘Tell me the rest.’
Stefano rises abruptly. ‘I’ll go check on the flocks.’ He steps outside, silent for such a big man. Lykeios eyes Kiri. ‘There is one more story we heard as we traveled. It is not a story I re-tell willingly, and there are few tales indeed about which I can say that.’
‘You will tell me,’ she says firmly, her voice soft as a breath, but adamant.
Lykeios sighs, and begins. ‘Not far from where the Mounikhyia took place is a small community of herders, like you. We met them only a day after we set out, and had they not recognized my voice from the festival, they may have killed us in their fury and fear.
They pasture their goats on Wolf Fang Mountain, below the sharp peaks on the verdant upland meadows. One night, not even a half a moon ago, they heard howls, and ran out to their herds only to find the goatherd lying insensible, the dogs gone, and half their goats torn apart. The goatherd survived but could tell them nothing, so they assumed naturally that wolves had attacked, and prepared to hunt them down. But they found no tracks, nor any sign of other predators like bears or cats, and were about to turn home in frustration when they saw a foxfire, gleaming in the darkness of the woods, and they followed it under the trees. It flickered and danced, and led them deeper, until under the light of the late-rising moon they saw a fox, a large red one, sitting in a circle of huge amanita mushrooms.
It had a severed human hand in its mouth.
When it saw them it trotted out of the nymph circle, and led them on, often turning and waiting for them. They followed it until daybreak, when it led them to a stream. Lying half in the water was the body of a young woman, dreadfully mutilated, and signs of a terrible struggle all around. They searched the area, looking for signs of whatever could have perpetrated such an atrocity, and they found the body of a man nearby, leaning against a tree. He was still alive. His limbs had been severed from his body and were lying nearby, except for his missing hand. They asked him what had happened, but he could not say. His tongue had been torn from his mouth. His eyes implored them, but he could not tell his tale.
He died shortly thereafter. The hunters performed the rites over the bodies, and burned them. They returned to their families, and stand guard turn and turn about, not traveling nor welcoming strangers. They believe they are being watched at night, and do not venture forth from their fires unless they are at least three, and armed.’
Kiri closes her eyes. Lykeios makes an aborted move toward her, but stops himself and settles back, gazing into the now-leaping fire, his mouth set in a grim line.
After a while Stefano softly enters the hut. ‘All is quiet. The goats sleep, and the dogs are relaxed. But we need to keep a constant watch. Come get me at sunrise.’
Kiri looks at her father’s shadowed eyes. ‘You are exhausted, Father. I sat idle in the meadows today, and I will not sleep now after hearing these tales. I will sit with the dogs until sunrise. Sleep, and prepare for tomorrow.’
Stefano’s thick brows draw together, but Lykeios stands and forestalls him. ‘She’s right, Stefano. I’ll stand guard with her.’ Stefano’s scowl deepens, and the young man adds hastily, ‘I swear before the Shining Ones of Olympos that I will offer no outrage or forward behavior to your daughter. I am here to help.’
Kiri’s mouth quirks in an unwilling smile. ‘And I have my knife, Father, which you yourself taught me to use. Whatever endangers me in the night, it won’t be this bard.’
Lykeios’s throat moves convulsively.
‘Very well,’ says Stefano eventually. ‘Stay by the pen, and take a torch. Wolves fear the fire.’
But, ‘No’, says Kiri firmly. ‘The torch ruins my night-vision, and whatever stalks these hills does not fear what mere beasts fear. I can see well in the dark, and if I don’t like what I see, I will call for you, Father. The darkness itself has never frightened me, and what it holds now will not be thwarted by our little torches.’
Stefano looks at Lykeios. Lykeios gives a helpless little shrug. ‘I can yell as loudly as she,’ Lykeios offers.
Stefano snorts, and turns away.
The goats murmur happily as Kiri leans over the woven-twig fence, and the pure black doe butts her affectionately. Kiri rubs the knobby silken head for a moment, then looks around for a place to keep watch, settling on a slight mound. Eyes gleam red in the grass where the biggest herd dog crouches nearby, panting slightly. Lykeios comes and stands in front of her.
‘Shouldn’t we move to the trees where there’s shelter?’
Kiri eyes him. After a long moment she replies, ‘No. Shelter means that I can’t see what’s coming at me. If I’m in the open I’m visible, but I can also see all around, and so can the dogs.’ She sighs. ‘Anyway, whatever is stalking these regions won’t be deterred easily. All we can hope for is to see something coming in time to alert the others, and that our numbers will save us.’
He sits down close to her, but not too close. He has not forgotten the panther stance when he came upon her too quickly in the night, just a handful of nights before.
‘Do you really think that would be enough to save us?’ he asks quietly.
Kiri is silent for several minutes. When she speaks, her voice is so low that he has to strain to hear her above the small night noises, and the mutterings of the goats nearby. ‘I think I know what’s happening. No- that’s not it, I don’t know, not really. But I saw something, last spring. And then something else- as winter was ending, right after Eleni’s baby….’ She chokes, then continues, ‘After Eleni’s baby was born. And I think the…….the things I have seen…….. are connected to what’s going on. To the deaths. And the missing children.’ She swallows audibly. ‘I think I have to go find Her. And ask Her to stop it.’
Lykeios stares at her, dumbfounded. ‘Go….where? Ask who? Ask what?’
Kiri’s eyes gleam at him in the starlight before she squeezes them tightly shut. ‘I think there’s a Goddess in a cave. And I think She’s very, very angry. I don’t know how to make Her stop. But I have to try.’

Posted March 24, 2015 by suzmuse in Uncategorized