Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chapter 4 -- Hel

Down in the depths of the Underworld, I travel to meet with others. I am in charge of this place, yet you do not realize until you come to visit. No one fears me, but even more, no one loves me. I usher your souls to the other side, provide a land of rejuvenation until you are ready to return. I am your Deep Sleep. I am Forgotten.

I want him back.” I stared into the bowl, making my demand. My hands were on my hips and my mouth was set into the pinch my mother got when she was mad. “I want him back now.”

The bowl was black inside and leaves were carved along the outside in vines and limned in gold. I filled the bowl with spring water a few moments before and called upon the Lady of Death. I was furious. I couldn't help ranting at the bowl. Finally I calmed down enough to make my demand. It was a simple one. Probably impossible to be given, but hey, She's a God. She could do it. Right?

The face from the bowl was a mixture of black skin and white. Beautiful, but bitter. She did not look sympathetic to my emotions. Perhaps yelling was a bad idea.

*I cannot return him to you. Not in the form you wish. That bond is gone. Severed. The relationship is dead. He is not dead. Your relationship. And you are lucky. *

“Lucky?! I've lost my father. I am too young to lose him. He is too young to have joined you! GIVE HIM BACK!” Okay, I realized I was losing it again. I tried to remind myself that screaming at Hel would not get me anywhere. Yet, I still screamed. I don't even know what I was saying. The pain is so distracting, even now, and my mouth took the opportunity to say who knows what. Hel's face grew pale in anger, well, the dark half. The light half was already pale.

*Stop screaming, child. It is not getting you anywhere* But I could not. I became hysterical, freaking out, wailing like a hungry newborn. Hel reached for me through the bowl and I took the black hand. She pulled me through the bowl. Then She held me. My face on Her black bare breast, my tears running down Her skin. Her white hand petted my hair. I heard a godly *shh... Shh... * and I found myself being rocked back and forth. Eventually I quieted, the tears stopped, and there was a rough wool cloth in my hand to wipe my face with. It scratched, and felt good on my numbed skin. I hiccuped a little.

When I had calmed down enough to speak again, Hel looked at me with the compassion it was rumored She was incapable of. * I know, child, I know. But it is done and the doing has been set at your feet. You did not need have picked it up, but you did.*

I hung my head, sick with the truth of my own doings. My father was gone where I could not follow and I had a hand in the doing. Hel spoke again.

*Child, know you not that everything had a hand in your father's end? He was the main instrument of his undoing so soon. His father's rearing, his mother's comforting, his sister's fire, his brother's inability to do aught for him. His great grandfather had a hand, his other children, your mother and his other wives. Each bears a portion of the burden of his death. You alone do not carry his weight. *

“I know, but it hurts. I cannot bear the pain! I want him back. I want to tell him I am sorry! I want to tell him...”

*What? What do you want to tell him? I am Mistress here, and surely I can pass on a message, though I must warn you, his past life is but one drop in the pool that is his soul. He made terrible decisions and suffered for it, and in doing so, caused those around him much suffering. You pay for his actions as surely as he paid for yours. However, those were temporal and he is past such things now. He remembers what he did, and sees it clearly. Your father feels guilt for what he did and has imposed his own punishment upon himself. When he has forgiven himself, he will return, and you are inextricably tied to him. You will meet him again, and both of you will have paid the debt owed to each other, or will pay it in future lives. There is a balance. Whatever debt you owed to him, you have paid for. Be absolved. I am no priest of the Christ-child requiring confession, and only you can set your heart at rest. But heed my words, you cannot carry this guilt into your future. It will harm you, which harms many, for you are not an entity unto yourself. You are part of a great web that connects all life together. Do not go to your next life bearing a burden you have no right to bear! *

I sniffled and buried my face to Her breasts, seeking comfort from one widely considered cold, when considered at all. “Tell him I forgive him, and in doing so I can forgive myself. I do not want to harm others through our combined folly!”

*I will tell him. * She said simply and held me, stroking my hair and rocking me gently like a babe. I loved Her then, and after for the peace She helped me find within myself. It is generally considered Her duty to bring peace and guidance to the dead, but She helped the living in that moment.

I know now that my duty to my father was paid, and while it pains me to think that at times I cursed him for his carelessness and selfishness, those emotion were propelled by hurt and selfishness on my part. I have to struggle daily to forgive him and myself for things that came to pass, but I save my recrimination for us only, something to be shared between the two of us, and when it is my turn to face Hel as my father did before me, it is then I will truly see everything and be wise. I will be able to shed the guilt forever and start anew, with the soul that was my father, yet is my father no longer. A soul I continue to love, a soul that will always love me. I look forward to our many lives together in whatever form they may take. I am at as much peace as I can muster in this muddled and imperfect body, with its highs and lows of emotion.

“Promise me he will not come again in this life. I cannot bear the thought of always looking for him. I need assurance that I will not know him again in this body.”

*Time is not as it perceived by you. Your father, the soul who was your father, may choose to return to any time he will. I do not think he would do that to you, however. He knows you better now that he has centuries of memories of you, and I think he understands your soul better than you could understand yourself. Fear not, I doubt he would inflict such cruelty upon himself, though he tortures himself watching you. Always he watches, though he cannot effect. Thus is the punishment he has inflicted on himself in atonement. Have a care for what you do, he sees it, and loves you anyway, but be careful not to add to his burden. He also feels guilt over your grief and all the death you have endured. But what you have endured was to teach you. Be sure you learn the lesson well.

Now, farewell. I will see you again soon enough, but not one moment before you are due. *

And with that I was back in my room. Alone and staring into a black pool, my face not even reflected in its shallow water. While not exactly at peace, I did not feel so heavy either. Not for the last time, I wept for those who I will not have again, not in the same way. There is hope, however, for I will have them again. They are mine to keep, and I will keep them in my heart now and in my arms later. I bide my time, enjoying life and trying to learn what there is to learn from Death, Hel's mark forever upon my living mind, a rare jewel of compassion that was completely unexpected and completely fulfilling.

I cannot hate my father, though he thrust me into a position where I could not be loved. It is not disgrace to die in bed, and no one really dies alone. But now there is one living who loves me, and while she cannot understand me, I am part of her, and will hold her to me again. My father does not speak to me, so I speak to her father. He is a good soul, if not a very wise one, and brings some happiness to me, if not to himself. I can only hope that I gave something to his child in return for the gift he gives me freely.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

chapter 3

I am fading, wasting away. I am unpopular because even to my people I am not a subject thought fondly of.
But now there is a war. A war that may help me. There is a child, one who may learn to love me and trust me. She has such sadness in her future. Perhaps I can help her. Perhaps she will help me in return. She is good, and strong, and adaptable.

Katerine looked around her at her New World. That’s what everyonecalled it. Her parents were so excited to start anew. “No moreSnow!” They would declare. “No more Putin!” But Katerine wasseven, and the snow wasn’t so bad. The days it was dangerous she gotto stay inside. And Putin was just another old man who said a lot ofboring things. Besides, this “New World” looked just like the old. Snow was covering New York. February was cold here too. Airplanewindows clouded from Katerine’s breath as they began to descend. Shesaw buildings that were different, but it was still snowy and cloudy. Had they really only flown a little ways and her nap was very short? Maybe it was just another part of Russia.
Katerine knew that that was not how it really was, but it was fun toimagine. She daydreamed that Peotr would be waiting for her when shegot off the plane, on break from the army. But that was impossible. Asimpossible as ever seeing her beloved Russia again. Her brother Peotrwas killed in the push to claim Georgia. He was never coming back. Itwas the catalyst that brought her parents to the United States, but itwould be a long time before Katerine would understand that.
Katerine was jerked by her mother. “Wake up sleepy head! We’rechanging planes. Only eight more hours to California!” and Katerinegot up, trudged out of the plane and walked sedately behind her parents.She could hear them whispering about her, how she had no energy itseemed. Her mother said that perhaps traveling tires Katerine. Perhaps it does, Katerine thought.
Another plane ride, more daydreaming of Russia and Peotr. Katerinenever noticed when she fell asleep. In her dreams she saw images of abeautiful woman clothed in ice and snow. Her hair was made of barrenbranches, her face of craggy rock. There were stars in her eyes and anancient feeling. Katerine recognized her from the stories told by theold woman who did not go to church. “Koljada” Katerine breathed inher sleep. Peotr kept appearing with her, covered in his cloth of snow.He looked pale, but not how mama looked when she was pale. Peotr hadno dark circles under his eyes, neither did he look like his lips werecracking. In fact, he looked like normal, if someone had whitewashedhim. Katerine called for him over and over again, every time she sawhim. The last time, he turned and smiled at her and put a finger to hislips for quiet. The she was being woken again, this time to look at anocean of homes. Nowhere Katerine looked was there tall buildings orgiant apartment complexes. Instead, there were trees and sunshine andhomes! Real homes! Katerine forgot her dreams.
Months passed, and as much as she loved the sunshine and the warmth andshirts with short sleeves, she was not adjusting well. Her sleep wasalways troubled. She dreamed of snow often. The more she loved the sunand green of California’s southern suburbs the worse the dreams got. She would wake up shivering in the middle of the night. When herparents would come in the next morning they would find her sweatingunder piles of extra blankets.
One night was particularly bad and her parents were woken by screamingcoming from Katerine’s room. She was screaming for Peotr. When theywoke her, she remembered nothing of her dream, but she seemed to growdespondent after that. She stopped running through the sprinklers intank tops and shorts. Stopped playing in the street with new-foundfriends. She stopped being a normal seven year old.
So one day in May they took her to the beach. The water was warm andthe sand floating in the tide sparkled like glitter. It was verypretty. Katerine loved it. She shrieked with delight when the tideknoked her over, scrambled on rocks to look for sea urchins andanemones. She even made a pile of sand she assured her parents was acastle. Her parents were relieved, and Katerine felt better. It was asif the ocean had breathed life into her. They decided to take her tothe ocean every couple weeks, even though it was an hour drive in goodtraffic either way. Katerine was all they had left after Peotr died,and she was worth anything.
But when they tried to take her the next time she began to cry,terrified, and almost became hysterical until they promised to not takeher any more. They did not understand, and neither did Katerine. Onlythat she was scared of the ocean. Her memory of that one day was sobeautiful, she could not reconcile it with the trepidation she felt. Her sleep had seemed good, her dreams pleasant, her friends were good toher and she was good back, she did well in school. Everything was fineunless someone mentioned the ocean. So no one did except in schoolwhere she learned about fish. It wasn’t the same though. Fish werein every ocean. She was even able to go with her classmates to theaquarium field trip. But when one of her friends she was having abirthday party at the beach, Katerine stopped talking to her. Sheavoided her at all costs and refused to go to the party.
Katerine’s own birthday was coming up, and she decided she wanted aparty at the pizza place, with the jungle gym full of tubes to climbthrough and a ball pit to swim around in and lots of pizza (not likeback home pizza though). Her parents did everything they could toaccommodate her, they even sent out invitations in primary colors withher mother’s terrible English written on them. Katerine asked for oneCyrillic for Peotr. They gave her one, just to keep. She was stillgrieving after all. It hadn’t even been a year. And remembering thedead was never wrong. He may not have died in a good war, but he diedin war just the same.
Katerine’s parents decided not to make her go to the beach birthdayparty. Katerine felt left out when everyone came home and talked abouthow much fun they had, but made a face every time they mentionedactually going in the water. She changed the subject often with talk ofher own birthday party and everyone was getting excited about that too. The day before her parents too Katerine shopping for a new outfit. Shefound lots of things, but nothing for just that special day. “Eightis a big number, you know.” She would say seriously when turning downyet another lovely outfit. “It has to be just right.”
All through the mall they tramped, looking, looking. Katerine foundnothing that would do. Her mother asked her if she’d like to look atother stores, maybe another mall, but Katerine suddenly knew what shewanted. Her mother had a snowy white sweater. It was fluffy and soft. She asked her mother if she could wear that, borrow it. Her motherlaughed. “Silly! That’s too big for you, and this is June inCalifornia! It’s too hot for a sweater.”
But Katerine was insistent. Her mother finally broke down and gave herthe sweater, but she insisted on making it fit Katerine first. She tookin the sides, but left it long, like a dress, and took the sleeves uptill they were just little caps, like half a snowball on each shoulder. With Katerine’s long dark brown hair and big brown eyes and pale skin,she looked beautiful, like a little snow angel. Katerine put jeans onunderneath and low boots and looked lovely and mature, her mother caughta glimpse of the woman she’d become.
The party went without a hitch. Other parents stayed and Katerine's parents got to know their neighbors. That night they all went for ice cream before bed. Katerine had coconut flavor with almonds. She loved the sunshine flavor of it.
On the way home, her parent's Camry was hit head on by a drunk. Neither of her parents had remembered their set belt, which was strange sine they were very paranoid about getting a ticket over it. The drunk didn't wear his either. All three adults involved were cut to pieces from broken glass, but that was nothing compared to their landing in the broken glass. All three died in a pile together, looking like freshly butchered meat.
Katerine went to live at a foster home. Her foster parents were nice, American, and disturbed by the fact that she continually talked to her parents and someone named Peotr. Koljada was often whispered reverently in her sleep. They told her counselor about it, but he said it was just a coping mechanism.
Two weeks later they were at the beach. Her foster parents were with her on a boat. Her foster mother hit her head and went over. Katerine saw and called for her foster father. He was too late. Bereaved, her foster father decided he could no longer foster any child. He wanted to be alone. When Katerine was picked up from the home, he hugged her goodbye, a long heartfelt hug. Then, once the door was closed, there was a loud boom. Police had to be called and a social worker took Katerine away.
Katerine bounced from foster home to foster home, but she paid little attention to the living. Koljada was with her, and she was able to see and speak to her dead. Her comfort in life was the snowy arms of the Goddess and the voices of her brother and parents. Katerine grew up, went to college on the state's dime, and became a medical examiner. She was able to talk to the dead that landed on her table, and get information for where to look. She excelled at her job and refused promotions. She lived well, did what she could for the dead, and worshiped the Goddess who gave her what she needed to help others. The goddess grew strong and began to help others similarly. Her festival grew popularity again in Russia.

I was right. She is good and strong. And she LOVES me. And I love her. It feels wonderful. She gives me strength and I give her comfort. Symbiotic, the way it should be. She has brought so much to me, and now, I'll bring her to me. She is old, her body is weary and I have not the power to remove the cancer from her body. But I can make her passing easy, and in a moment, she will truly be in my arms.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Call Me Not Goddess Chapter 2

When I look upon the battleground I see not the violence, the pain, the wrongness. I see deaths. I see men I am taking with me. Men whose bodies will be snuffled by my hounds, checked for fading life signs. Men whose bodies will be eaten by my ravens, consumed to in order to find their places in the afterlife. My raves can taste bravery or cowardice, goodness or cruelty, happiness with life, or a constant strife to find a place. While I spend my mornings dutifully washing the armor of those to die in battle that day so they shine in death, and my afternoons ferrying the dead to the afterlife they've chosen, My mind is not entirely on the men. I am a Goddess. I feel for the women left at the camps, prostitutes, wives, cooks. All waiting for someone to return to them. When men die in battle, there is glory. The women of the losing army have only rape and ownership to look forward to, the women of the winning side have abandonment and drunken molestations to look forward to. While they are aware of the risks, many are too attached to someone else to leave. I want to care for them. Once in a while I wash armor made for a man, but worn by a woman. It is for that woman I utter a sigh of relief. Her struggle is over, while all other women, everywhere have so much father to go. I am a goddess of death, of grief, but also of compassion for warriors, and are not women soldiers in another sense? I may ferry death to battlefields, but I love too. Cuchulain taught me naught else but that even I am susceptible to my emotions. For I am Woman too.

Ravens are flying over the battlefield, Howling can be heard from beyond the tree line, beating out a chilling lament for the folly of man. Folly it is, for even though I am here, on this battlefield I have no right to, I am not here because of my own causes. The feudal system is failing me, failing everyone but the lords, men who feel they have the right over life and death of the men they should be protecting. What do I care if their crops fail and there is nothing to feed their engorged mouths?

I am following my heart, like any other ninny who fancies herself in love with a man. I have stolen the armor of a dead man. It is good leather, studded with metal for added protection. He left a sword too. Not that I know how to use it other than to swing the sharp end at anyone coming at me, but he no longer needed it.

Corrin is out here somewhere, swinging his sword with ease of use, and I will find him. I am his wife in his heart, and the child I carry is his. My family knows not that I have followed him here, and neither does he. None of them know about my baby either. Fortunately the armor is covering my swelling belly enough, and I look like a slight, pudgy man under everything. There is some safety in that. At least if we lose, I am mostly likely to die here, on the field, rather than back at the camps where to women wait for their men (to pay them or love them or both) in trepidation and fear. There will be no slavery for me.

I say a silent prayer to the Morrigan that if Corrin does not leave this field, neither do I. Also that if I am discovered, that I get to die honorably, like a man of battle. Perhaps the Queen of the ravens will take pity on me, a girl-child wanting to be a warrior for her Beloved. If anyone understand me, surely it is She who loved a warrior, Cuchulain, and was betrayed by him. She who had to wash her beloveds armor, and ferry him to his afterlife.

The sounds men make as they die are horrifying, and the stench worse. I seem to be doing okay, but then again, I am fighting farmers with as much knowledge of their weapons as I have, which is to say none.

There! Corrin! I see him! He's surrounded by men on horses and he is on his feet, holding his own. Three horse lie felled about him, bu there are more. There are always more. I stopped to admire Corrin's movements, he is graceful with a sword! But now there are more coming at me. I swing my way to Corrin's side, but do not say anything to him. Distracting him might mean his death. He hacks first at the horse to get the men on their feet. I do the same. One horse down! Now to kill the man. I swing at his neck before he can get a leg out from under the dying beast. Corrin is faster. He's gotten two more down. We keep fighting and suddenly there are no more. He looks at me for a moment, but there is no recognition who who I am, only that I helped, and in his blood fury, knows not to swing at me.

Now there are more to kill. Suddenly someone who knows what they are doing has hit me under my arm, sinking a sword into my side, piercing a lung. I can feel myself drowning in my blood. I look to Corrin, get one last glimpse of him as I fade into blackness, his grace and beauty taking what little I have left of breath away. So much for the child, for surely it is done for as well. It is too early for it to come into the world, and who would think to cut it from my body before my blood ceases to flow?

I close my eyes and wings enfold me, whisper that I am safe and loved and to let go. Everything will be fine if I can just surrender. At least my last sight was of Corrin. I let go.

I have washed the armor of a woman today. I have led her beloved to her body, he discovered the child and saved it. Perhaps the baby will not die, it was close to term. Ah! He is weeping, but there will be joy in raising a baby. Perhaps he will put down the sword and take up the mantle of fatherhood. I stay only long enough to hear him calling for a woman who has her milk. The child has every chance to live. I am taking the mother away now, to a place where she will be reborn and find Corrin again, but not in this life. Later. Much later.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Call Me Not Goddess


Call Me not Goddess. Once I was Great Mother, Goddess of all, the Earth Herself. Now, Only Gaia remains, She is the Earth, but She has lost Her soul.

At the beginning of time, I was worshiped, loved, honored. I gave unto you and yours agriculture, medicine, animal husbandry, math, and written language. They were My Gifts, but they were turned against me, and now I am alone.

I loved you. All of you. I loved you, the birds, the trees, the mammoths and fish, the fruit, the flowers, termites and beetles, spiders that can kill with just one bite, scorpions, forests, mountains, plains, deserts, oceans, the very dirt and lava of which the planet is made. Of all of these, only you could fully comprehend Me, and so I bestowed on you that which would give you reign over it all. And yet you cast Me aside.

And now I am lonely.

Call Me not Goddess, call Me Myth, for surely that is all I am.


Why have I come to this? I am no longer Goddess, no one calls out one of My Names to the stars, I am hidden in Saints and Virgin Mothers, rather than being Virgin, Mother, and Crone. I am reduced to Sweat on ponchos and statues in churches dedicated to another. My works are reduced to fairies and sprites, coincidence and chance. I exist only because of the love of the image of the Virgin Mother, a facet of me. I am now only capable of interceding on human behalf. Not that I am opposed. I am happy to exist, for that is what the strongest part of Me is. Maybe someday the War-bringer portion of Me will be brought out again. What a tragedy that would be! Yet, if the Christ-God can demand it, I can and must be present. Call me Virgin Mary, Saint Brigid, Parvati. Someday you will again call me Kali, Morrigan, Lilith! Someday I will be both War Goddess, Bringer of Death, and Mother Goddess, loving and sweet! Someday...

Fatima is kneeling in front of the statue of Parvati, somewhere west of the Indus River. She is lighting incense, praying to be a good wife and mother, meek and loving. Though never mentioned in the Vedas, Parvati is the second consort of Shiva, and mother of Wisdom, Ganesha.
Her popularity has grown over time, and She has become many goddesses in one.

As Fatima stares through the tendrils of smoke rising from her incense, she can see the mural of Parvati, four arms and Son Ganesha with her, hand making the gesture of fearlessness. Then the world shifts. Fatima still sees the hand of fearlessness, of boundless courage, and the face is still lovely, it is darker, the eyes wider. Ganesha is gone and there is a tiger beneath the Goddess. The mural continues to morph as Fatima’s eyes are half lidded in meditation, comprehending and not all at once. The Goddess has become dark skinned, still bare breasted, but holding a spear, and her tiger is beginning to grin. A demon emerges in the form of a boar, and the tiger leaves Durga (for that is who Parvati is and is not) to fight the demon. While the Demon mocks Durga’s womanhood, She casts her spear, killing the Demon by striking from him his manhood and letting his blood flow. The tiger begins to feast.

Everything is shifting again. Suddenly the tiger is gone. Durga’s smiling face is transformed into blackness, eyes white beaming from a black figure, naked but for belt and necklace of human skulls. She is impossibly large and holding different weapons in each of her eight arms and waving them about, ready to kill and feast on blood. Below her is a battlefield, men in armor and leather fighting one another, some have farm tools, others have swords curved wickedly and there is blood everywhere. Carrion birds are soaring, but they are not as high up as Kali (for this is who Durga is and is not, and who Parvati is and is not).

For a moment Fatima’s meditation is on the Goddesses of war, the parts of the Goddess that women are encouraged not to love. Men can love Kali, but few do, and battles are not common in this area. Mostly it is massacres from the Muslims on her people, and her village has been lucky. But there they are, the Goddesses bare for her to see, for her to worship. For her to love. Love Them she did, all of Them, giving each more power in the reality of Fatima’s world. Even that tiny moment is a balm to the Mother Goddess who gives and takes lives. When the smoke is clear and Fatima is coming out of her meditation, she feels as if everything is right and good, and her prayers have been answered. She cannot tell you why, but she feels as if the Goddess has touched her. She goes home and is a wonderful wife and mother, loving her husband and children with everything she has. When she dreams, she dreams of many arms and spears, demons and battles, but they are quickly forgotten in the hustle of the day. But for Parvati/Durga/Kali, is enough. For now. Enough.

Fatima’s village is never attacked while she lives, but sometimes Muslims are found dead nearby, apparently eaten by tigers and missing skulls.