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Archive for the ‘Storytelling’ Category

This story was told at a Grove of Hekate ritual focusing on the powers of the cauldron.

Before the current age, in the newness of the world, the gods were young, and roamed the land freely, seeking and discovering all there was to know about the fair isles. The spirits of the land walked about among them, and the animals spoke and were heard.

One of those nights, when the fog had rolled in off the smaller sea, and daylight creatures slept in caves or trees or leaves, Cerridwen had a dream:

She knelt on a cliff at the base of a tree in the dark, a tree whose branches stretched to heaven. As she looked, the sky was filled with light, and suddenly she found herself in the midst of the branches, cradling in her arms a massive, heavy bowl that smoked and shone. She gazed into its curve, and in the liquid of its belly, she saw a thousand pinpricks of light, winking in and out of existence.

She woke suddenly, as dawn broke through the mist. The dream was clear, and the vision true, so she wrapped her cloak around her, and set off under the rising sun.

She traveled a long way, moving swiftly and with purpose, until she came to the top of the highest hill around. She spread her arms and called, her raucous cry echoing through the heavens, the ends of her cloak flapping in the wind like wings.

It took a little while, but they came; sparrow and wren to hawk and eagle, the swans and the ravens and the crows. They settled at her feet, perched on her arms, and cocked their heads while she told her story. When she was done, there was a long moment of silence, then a great rustling and clacking of beaks arose, as heads shook from side to side. No, no, they had not seen this thing; no, no, there was surely nothing like it in the sky, or anywhere they had flown. No, no, they had no knowledge of what this might be.

Cerridwen thanked them, gave them some bread from her pocket. One by one they flew regretfully away, and as the last one flew into the sunset, she descended the tor and curled into her cloak in the lee of the hill to stay the night.

The next morning she woke again with the dawn, and set out, arriving by midday at the edge of the sunlit sea. She tucked up her cloak between her legs, and waded into the ocean, splashing the waves and barking into the surf.

The first ones came quickly; seals and otters and crabs. The larger fish took longer, coming from further away, but when the whales and dolphins and salmon and all had gathered, she sat herself on a rock and told them of her vision. When she had finished, there was a watery silence, then a great splashing and spray as all the creatures shook their heads and smacked the water with their tails. No, no, they had never seen this thing; No, no, surely there was nothing like it in river or sea. No, no, they had no wisdom to give her.

Cerridwen thanked them, gave them some hazelnuts she had in her pouch. One by one they left, diving beneath the surface of the waters. As the sun cast its last rays across the tips of the waves, she climbed up the rocks and settled herself at the edge of the wood, wrapping herself in her cloak to sleep.

When dawn came, she rose, shaking the dew off her cloak. It was not such a long walk this time, and when she came to the heart of the land, the sun was not yet fully high in the sky. The wood was thick, and the mouth of the cave gaped in front of her, so she stepped into its shade, turned her back, and bellowed into the woods.

The first stag arrived quickly, followed closely by the foxes, the bears, the boars, and the wolves. The cattle took longer, the sheep longer still. But when all had gathered, she sat herself on the dirt in the mouth of the cave and told her story. When she was done, all the creatures of the land were silent for a moment, then there came a stomping of hooves and paws, a rattling of antlers and horns as they all shook their heads. No, no, they had never seen such a thing; no, no, surely there was not such a thing anywhere in the land. No, no, they had nothing they could tell her.

Cerridwen thanked them all, gave them some apples from her bag. The last rays of the sun were fading through the trees as the final deer disappeared into the shadows. She turned and walked into the darkness of the cave.

As night fell and the moon rose, Cerridwen knelt in the warm mud at the center of the cave. It was pitch black inside the rock, and damp with the taste of subterranean pools. She leaned over and shoved her forehead into the dirt, pressing her palms into the mud. The vision was sharp in her mind, as clear as when it came to her. The Darkness pressed around her, as thick as a living thing, damp and solid and deep.

You must make it yourself” the voices of the night whispered into her ear, “what does not exist must be made by hands, created to serve as needed.”

An exhale, in the stillness. She understood.

Cerridwen sat up, wiping the mud from her forehead and feeling it gather in her fingers, warm and wet and thick like sap. She kneaded it together into a ball, thinking. She rocked back on her heels, squatting in the moist floor of the cave, sinking her fingers into the earth and pulling handfuls of clay into a shape, a lump. It took all night, the pulling and kneading and shaping of the mud, but she pushed it and pulled it into a wide, flat, bowl. She cut her finger with her knife and dripped her blood into the mud. She spat on it, working the saliva into the chinks of the crater.

When morning came, she walked out of the cave. She was filthy and exhausted, but the fruit of her labor swelled large in her hands- a still-moist bowl as wide as her circled arms. She left it in the sun to dry, and gathered sticks and limbs, fallen leaves and dry grasses. When there was enough fuel, she dug a trench in the mouth of the cave, and laid two long, thin, rocks across it, balancing her bowl on top of them. In the trench she built a fire, and tended it all day, banking it and adding to it until the night fell and the coals glowed brightly in the darkness.

Dawn rose again, and she buried the fire in mud and set out, the newly hardened bowl wrapped in her cloak.

She journeyed to the center of the land, spiraling up to the top of the highest mountain. The winds grew chill, and the evening began to fall, but up and up and up she went, until she reached the single tree that sprouted knock-kneed and sprawling at the very crest of the ben. She tied her cloak carefully to her back, the bowl knotted securely within, and began to climb.

By the time she seated herself in the crotch of the highest sturdy fork, the lighting was flashing, and the thunder rolled in waves, shaking the branches of the tree in sympathetic vibration. She unwrapped the bowl, and raised it aloft to the skies as they opened wide and the rain fell.

The bowl filled with rain, and as it grew full the to the brim, the clouds parted on a shining night sky. Cerridwen raised her head to the stars, and as she lifted her gaze, one streak of light shone forth, ripping through the inky black in a firey burst of light. Closer and closer and closer it came until it seemed impossibly near, and she lifted the bowl above her head in an effort at protection. A splash and a solid thud, and the fire was gone.

She lowered the bowl and gazed within- simmering in the bottom sat a dark sphere, and shimmering around it were a hundred thousand lights; the lights of every soul in the vast, infinite, expanse of worlds.

 

Fin

 

I wrote this post over several months, and I’m not at all convinced that it reads well. At some point I expect I’ll go back and rework it, but that day is not today. Apologies for any inconsistencies. 

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Yemaija

A story told of Yemaija, for CAYA Coven’s June 2012 Grove of Hekate.

 

In the dawn of the first world, the stories say, Yemaija was born upon this earth when the light of the sinking morning star kissed  the splash of the high tide that raced onto the sands. From this union the goddess was brought forth, and when the tide went out, she remained.

She was not alone on her beaches; Oshun was up the river, and Yemaija could hear her sing. Eleuga was here and there and gone again. The winds of Oya would blow up and down, and Yemaija would smile. But more often, it was the creatures who kept her company; it was the shrieking gulls, the pipping sand pipers. The sonorous squawk of the pelican whose beak ran red as it fed its chicks. The burbled laughter of the otters.

The world grew, and the numbers of people grew, and Yemaija herself grew, and the earth turned, and all things were well.

And yet… slowly, her dreams became disturbed. She’d never slept like the others, in one long bout of 8, 9, 10 hours at a time. She slept to the roar of the surf, for four hours here as the tide turned, four hours there as the sun set. But now… now she could not even rest so long. Every sleep was disturbed by dreams, every dream by voices. Hundreds, thousands of voices, whispering, begging, singing, praying.

“Yemaija, Great One, send me my love!”

“Yemaija, Ocean Mother, I weep and cannot be consoled. Hear me!”

“Yemaija, Beautiful Mermaid, I have done a great thing with your help, and I praise you!”

She couldn’t figure out where they were coming from, who they were. Her sleep grew shorter, her patience thinner. The mystery began to consume her, eat away at her focus, her calm.

Finally, enough was enough. There was no peace or quiet to be found in sleep, so she took herself down to the waters edge and buried herself in the warm damp sand at the low-tide marker. She buried herself all the way up to her neck, leaving only her beautiful head with her tired eyes exposed.

She waited.

The sea came in, inexorable as the night sky. It rose above her chin, her cheeks. It seeped into her mouth, her nose, her ears. She closed her eyes and waited, and slowly, slowly, the water covered her over entire.

She opened her eyes in the deep green murk, unstopped her ears, and all around her she could hear them! Hundreds upon thousands of voices, calling to her, whispering her praises, telling her stories, pleading for her intercession.

“Yemaija, Great One, comfort me in my sorrow!”

“Yemaija, Ocean Mother, I am strength and beauty, and I honor your name!”

“Yemaija, Beautiful Mermaid, bless my child to be as beautiful and compassionate as you!”

The sea shells had opened their mouths and were singing, the whales lifted their voices in alien tune. All around her were the pleas and praises and petitions of the women of the world, circling in the ocean’s depths.

And so, Yemaija listened.

To every phrase, she listened. Every song, she heard. Each boast, she witnessed.

For she is the goddess, and the goddess listens.

 

It is a sacred duty, to listen and bear witness. Pray to Yemaija, and know that she hears you, and witnesses your joy, your pain, and your beauty.

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What follows is a story I told at a Lammas ritual,  a ritual designed to focus on the past and future roots of community, and our own responsibility to our worlds and tribes. When I told it in the ritual, it was interspersed with a song many of you probably know, Breath, found here, which was entirely appropriate for the ritual. However, here, on its own, I have interspersed it instead with a hymn, #760 in Wonder, Love, and Praise (which I normally hate with a passion, but every so often it comes through for me). I think it works well.

In the darkness that followed the beginning of the world, there arose a great clamor; a roaring in the heavens, the sound of chariot wheels racing across the sky. In the midst of the furious noise there came a great flash, and a BANG that reverberated throughout the realms.

Lightning had struck the earth.

At dawn, the ancestors crept out from their dwellings, leaving the tents and shelters behind, and made their way to the fields. The earth was damp with the rain from the night before, the waters of the world sinking into the dirt. They came to the place where the ground had been struck, and put their hands out and touched it.

It was warm.

They marveled, taking each hand in turn and pressing it to the heated ground. Surely, this was a sign.

One of them spoke a flurry of words, sudden and excited, and went running back to the camp, returning quickly with palms cupped and eyes bright. Putting out her hands, she showed them all what she had brought- a small cluster of seeds.

The others began to smile.

They found more seeds, and dragged rows, planting them in the dirt with a smile and a prayer and a song. All that morning they watched them, watched with sharp eyes as the seeds sent up shoots, small and green, unfurling in the light of the rising sun. They watched, and they waited.
oh wheat, whose crushing was for bread
oh bread, whose breaking is for life
oh life, your seeming end is seed
a seed for wheat, our bread is life
By the afternoon, the shoots were waist-high and sturdy, and the ancestors were delighted. They plucked the weeds from between the rows, and they propped up the wilting stalks. they watered the shoots that were getting too much sun, and trimmed back the trees where they shaded the corners of the field. They built a man out of twigs, and posted him at the end of the field to keep the birds away. They hoed and shooed and weeded and smiled and laughed. They took hands and danced, ringing around the field and singing, the Earth is our Mother, Thunder our Father, the fields are our bodies, the harvest our joy.
oh fruit, whose crushing was for wine
oh wine, whose flowing is for blood
oh blood, you’re pouring out is life
our life in you, oh fruitful vine

As the sun moved across the sky, the harvest ripened. When the first shadows of the mountains hit the edge of the field, the ancestors grasped their scythes and waded into the tall stalks. They moved as one, blades swinging in the deadly dance of foot to foot, stalk to ground. It was a long work, but then the field was finished, all of the ripened grain standing in bundles in the now-empty field. They wiped the sweat from their brows, and stood around, nodding in pleased exhaustion at the great work they had done.
As they gathered up the sheaves and carried them to the village, one woman stayed behind, plucking the last of the stalks from the ground and fashioning them into the shape of a small doll. It made her smile, there in the twilight, and so she brought it with her as she followed the rest out of the field.

oh life, whose crushing was for love
oh love, whose spending was to death
oh death, your mourning is our joy
full joy in birth to lasting life

And as the night darkened, the sound of merry-making rose from the small cluster of houses- the sound of revelry as the grain was crushed and needed, husked and fermented. and as they baked their bread, and drank their beer, they laughed and smiled and sang. They shouted and danced, because they knew that this was only the beginning- they knew that just as they had tended and watched and strengthened and reaped, so too they would do again, and again, and again. and so too would their children, and their children’s children. That as they rejoiced in the cycle of growth and sacrifice, they were bringing new life to the world at the cost of their own.
We are the spark of lightning in the earth; we are the growing shoots. We are the crops, standing tall in the fields, receiving our ancestors songs. We are the grain at harvest, the kernels crushed and pounded into flour, we are the loaves of bread and the cups of mead. The ancestors sacrifice themselves for us, because we are our ancestors harvest. And we will do the same.

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