The Beetle and the Dragonfly ~ Chenge and the Spider pt 2

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“……..I leave no trace…..shadowless, I see all…..I am the eye in the Sun……”

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It was the silence that awoke him. There had been voices, rising and falling, reverberating as one sound, but, far off and indistinct, like a crowded market place heard as if from a hill top high above. The sound breathed, rising like a flock of birds on waves of warm air, before sinking back into the earth like rain on parched ground. Then, suddenly, there was silence.

The first thing Ake felt was soft fine sand between his fingers. He opened his eyes and blinked rapidly in the scorching white light. Then he saw it. Resting on the back of his hand, an iridescent blue dragonfly. It was larger than any he had seen before and was so shockingly beautiful that, in that moment, Ake wondered if he was still dreaming….until, the wondrous insect bobbed slightly and, quickly hovering away over his head, was lost to sight.

sundragonhandHe turned, craning his neck, trying to follow the dragonfly’s flight, but, it had disappeared over the crest of the dune……then, all at once, it hit Ake. He was surrounded by sand, nestled in a hollow near the top of a sweeping crescent. He leapt to his feet, confused and more than a little frightened.

‘Where am I……..!?’ he spoke out loud. There was no answer……

‘How did I get here?! Where is Pemba…..?’

But, he was alone. And this place, it was so hot……he felt the sun on his back, beginning to burn. His eyes began to smart with salt tears and Ake felt his toes curl as a wave of fear rose up through his body. But, the feeling of something against the side of his foot made him gasp.

He jumped involuntarily and, looking down, saw that his head had been resting on the diviners bag, Pemba’s red woollen blanket folded neatly underneath it. He was momentarily reassured and, shaking his head with a sigh, he bent down to touch the precious talismans. But, the sound from Ake’s dream was still fresh in his mind and, with it, he remembered the dragonfly. It had been there on his hand when he had opened his eyes, he was sure of it, but, for a brief moment he wondered if a part of his dream had leaked into the daylight. The sudden compulsion to follow the insect’s flight pulled him out of his thoughts and he crawled on all fours towards the crest of the dune. When he reached the top the sight that met his young eyes was unlike any Ake had ever seen before.

An ocean of sand stretched as far as he could see, majestic and terrifying. Ake had a sense that it was not too long after sunrise, but, even though the sun was not high in the sky, the light and heat was intense. He’d never before left the savanah and the land surrounding him was completely alien to Ake. He turned slowly, surveying the parched horizon. Rippling away as far as he could see seemingly endless shimmering golden dunes were cut with deep shadows. Off to what he guessed was the north the pattern of the dunes was interrupted by a wider valley, but, Ake could see no trees or shrubs anywhere that might give him shade. There was not a living thing to be seen.

But, the dragonfly……there must be water nearby, and……he struggled with a half forgotten memory that wanted to emerge…..he was sure that he had heard someone talking about dragonflies only a few days ago. Ake shook his head and, confronted with the silence of the vastness surrounding him, suddenly felt the need to call out.

‘Hello……’

The sound of his voice in the midst of the vast desert only made him feel smaller and more alone. A tear ran down his cheek and he absent mindedly caught it with the tip of his tongue. Suddenly very thirsty, he retraced his steps, knelt by the divining bag and carefully felt beneath the blanket. The sand below was deliciously cool and soon his fingers felt the stone like smoothness of the drinking gourd. ‘Just a sip now, brother Ake…’ he heard Pemba’s voice in his mind.

‘Pemba’, he said softly as he put the stopper back in the gourd and tied it securely.

It may have been the taste of the clear spring water that triggered his memory, or perhaps it was the thought of Pemba’s advice, but, Ake suddenly remembered where he had heard about the dragonflies. It was Pemba himself who had told him. He had been recounting his own journey to the oasis as a young man. This had been a part of Pemba’s own initiation, but, initiation was far from Ake’s mind in that moment – the oasis was the meeting place Pemba had said they must travel to and medicine people from all directions would be gathering there.

The thought of the meeting was curiously re-assuring to Ake. It almost made sense of his being here, surrounded by desert. But, he had no recollection of the journey that had brought him! And, where was he? Was he close to the oasis – he must at least try and find out.

Gathering up the diviner’s bag, shaking out and refolding the blanket, he returned to the top of the dune and tried to decide on the best direction to go in. He looked back at where he had been sleeping. There were no footprints, save his own, but, he could not see a trail telling which direction he might have come from either.

It was instinct that said he must move, and, since it did not look as though Pemba had been there, he felt there was no choice. Ake looked down the face of the dune below. This was the direction he had last seen the dragonfly heading towards, and so, he carefully began to descend into its shadow. The sand was quite cool out of the sunlight, and he relished the feeling of it around his feet as it seemed to freshen his mind. Just as he came to the bottom of the slope he had another realisation. They had been in the Spider Mother’s cave when Pemba had begun talking about the meeting and had told Ake about the magical beauty of the oasis. He stopped in his tracks and thought hard……

….slowly the memory came back to him and, with it, a strong feeling that he should head north.

Scarab1Just at that moment a movement to his left caught his attention. At first he put it off as a trick of the light, a passing shadow, but, there it was again. Some ten feet away, and running straight towards him, was a beetle. No bigger than his thumb and very dark against the sand, the beetle came to within two feet of Ake and stopped. He leant towards it and, quite naturally, said ‘hello, little one’. A shimmer of dark green iridescence glanced off the beetle’s shell. ‘Do you know where the dragonfly went’ he thought, half to himself, half asking the little creature.

The beetle waved its antennae, seemingly in response, and, after a moment, began digging a hole in the sand. That was it! Images quickly flashed across his mind as Ake felt a wave of recognition and the memory of the day Pemba had talked about the oasis came flooding back…..

……before he knew it, his minds-eye opened wide, Ake was back in the Grandmother Spider’s cave. They had gone to her shrine.

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With the spider’s help the night before, Ake had found the secret cave that housed her shrine. It had been the second evening of his grandfather’s funeral and he had been given his true name, as a part of his heritage. The other part of that precious gift was his grandfather’s divining bag. He could not resist opening it, and that was when it had all begun. But, he was sure that it was his grandfather’s doing that he was now on the path of initiation, following the Spider Mother’s path. She had led him to her shrine safely, but, the night had also revealed the great danger now threatening his people. Pemba had revealed the strange object to him that he and his grandfather had found on the edge of the desert and he recalled with a wince Pemba’s description of its owners, the People of the Dead. But, with his mentor close by, high up in the escarpment where the ancestors are buried, he had felt safe and protected from the storm that had raged over the land that night.

Sleep had taken him quickly and, at first light, he had awoken to find the Spider’s Cave still and calm. The storm had passed, erased with the dawning day, but, Pemba was nowhere to be seen. He had left a small pile of freshly picked fruit next to the fire’s simmering ashes. After splashing cool water from the gourd upon his face and hands, he had picked a couple of small green fruit from the pile and made his way to the cave entrance to greet the day.

A subtle mist was rising from the plains as the world emerged from its night journey. Above, in the growing light a pair of cranes flew out of the south and, high above the caves, sent a plaintive cry to the world below. An orange white shaft of light spilled over the horizon, the treetops below Ake’s perch at the cave entrance suddenly becoming adorned with a golden brilliance.

In those first few moments he had sat in awe of the beauty that flooded his senses, oblivious to the events of the previous night. This was the world he knew, comforting in its familiarity. As he heard the calling cranes and watched them fly overhead  the thought crossed Ake’s mind that he too would soon be travelling north. Pemba had told him that a meeting of the medicine people had been called at a hidden oasis, deep in the desert, and they were bound to go. The path of Ake’s initiation was inextricably interwoven with the journey. He felt his heart flutter briefly as the memories returned of his grandfather, the dreams that had called him to this place, and the unfathomably strange object that Pemba and Grandfather Ake had found….the day suddenly took on a different dimension, became an horizonless field of uncertainty and questions. The People of the Dead! Who were they, what were they, how had this all come to be – Ake struggled to confront the reality that was now challenging his world. The world he knew was itself being called into question……

“I can see that you are beginning to wake up…..”

The voice came from behind Ake, but, the familiar tones of his guardian and mentor quickly washed away the uneasy feeling that had begun to gnaw at his belly…..and Pemba’s words seemed to be asking for a response. But, Ake could find none, save a smile and outstretched arms as he turned to meet his old friend. A hug when troubled with doubts is always good medicine, but, Pemba could tell that his protege was also beginning to feel the veils of innocence fall away. It was always like this. Initiation was a never ending affair in this world.

Pemba sat beside his young ward and nodded in recognition of the task ahead……

dragonfly-blue“I took the path into the desert once, when I was, well, not much older than yourself, younger brother…..it was a journey that your grandfather and I had to make, as a part of our own initiation.” He looked off towards the glowing horizon. “There is a place in the heart of that vastness that is filled with birdsong….tall palms line a pool of fresh clear tourquoise water, so sweet and refreshing to taste, and dragonflies hover and dart like mischevious spirits at its heart. Who would believe such beauty could be found in the midst of the desert heat. Being there is like being under a delicious spell within a dream……”

Pemba’s words cast their own magic in Ake’s imagination and seemed to cleanse his heart of its burdens. He began to relax as the world below returned to his sight and added its own beauty to the vision Pemba was spinning.

“We must prepare before we set off to find that place……I’ve made an offering at the Spider’s shrine to open our path, but, you must do the same before we leave. Come….this too is a special place…..”, and Pemba smiled impishly as he rose, offering a hand to Ake…..that smile was infectious and, jumping to his feet, Ake followed his mentor towards the back of the cave and the crack in the rock.

He watched as Pemba picked up a half burned stub of cut wood from the fire-pit, and, briefly stirring the embers with its charcoaled end, let it rest a moment in the  glowing ash,  then, lifting it close to his mouth, he blew on it. The branch radiated a warm red and orange light and, with a second breath, a small dancing flame emerged from its tip. Pemba tilted the little torch and encouraged the flame to grow slightly. Satisfied with the result, the old diviner turned with a nod to follow and, holding the torch before him, eased into the fissure in the rock…..

“…..this will serve to light the short way to the other side Ake…..its quite easy, c’mon…”, Pemba’s voice echoed uncannily from within the rock.

Ake could see Pemba ahead of him in dark silhouette as he entered the crack. The rock was smooth at his sides, as if an age of watery hands had sculpted it, and the narrow floor of the fissure was softened with a sediment of silt and small stones…..

After following Pemba for a few seconds, his breath held and his heart beating in anticipation, Ake saw his mentors outline merge with the rock off to the right….yet he could still see the soft glow of the torch ahead. Hurrying to catch up he came to the point where the crack in the rock turned a sharp corner and then continued straight for a few steps. He saw Pemba disappear once more as the passage-way turned again, this time to the left. A cool breath of wind brushed Ake’s cheeks as he turned the second corner. The floor of the passage tilted sharply downwards and levelled out about ten steps ahead.

As he approached the bottom of the incline the back of Pemba’s legs became visible ahead, but, Ake had not anticipated what was to meet his eyes once he arrived at his mentor’s side! A ledge that ran off to the left and right formed the lip of an immense chasm echoing with his footfall as Ake came to its edge. A diffuse light radiated down from an invisible source in the roof of the vast chamber giving a soft luminescence to the rocks below. It took Ake’s breath away as he took in the sight. Every few moments a small droplet of water fell from the ceiling of the cave, each a luminous pearl free-falling in space. Ake then became aware of a gentle sussurus in the background. Somewhere, far beneath them, off in an unseen part of the mountain, an underground river was in full speight……

” …..the shrine is down there Ake….” Pemba whispered, taking a step closer to the edge of the ledge, gesturing with his chin for Ake to take a look. Ake tentatively peered into the chasms depths……but, before he could decide what exactly he was supposed to be seeing, by way of a shrine, Pemba turned to face him and, bringing his face closer, looked over Ake’s shoulder and quietly said, “the way down is behind you, along the ledge….let me go first”.

The rock-wall arched overhead and small stones tumbled off the ledge as they picked their way along, gradually descending – Ake caught sight of the twisted shapes of roots hanging from the ceiling of the cave, as if emerging from dark clouds…..then he realised! The whole ceiling was covered in spider’ s webs, waving in diaphanous films, like smoke hanging in night air. The atmosphere closed in and, all around them, Ake felt the presence of a thousand unseen eyes, watching their every move.

“You must be careful here…” Pemba said in hushed tones, turning to face Ake. He had his hand resting on one of the two cut ends of a massive forked branch that rested on the rim of the ledge and disappeared below. It was a ladder, like those that led to the drying and curing platforms in the village, each step a wedge deeply cut into the wood.  Pemba let the torch rest on the ground  and reached downwards with a foot, facing the rock-wall – he did not look at Ake, or pick up the torch, as his head slowly disappeared below the rim.

The branch held firm against the rock with its own weight and Ake tried to imagine that he was simply climbing down from a drying platform, returning to the ground below – but, he had not expected the ladder to be so long, and to begin flaring out as he descended. He wanted to look around, but, dare not stop……and then his feet touched solid rock.

Still holding the ladder with one hand he turned to find Pemba staring at him with hawk like eyes in the gathering darkness. Without a word or gesture, Pemba turned again and, following an invisible trail, confidently walked away, slowly descending into the half light. They had arrived at a shallow concave plateau that Ake quickly  realised was the top of a massive boulder…..hurrying after Pemba he found that there was a path that wound its way amongst a jumble of monolithic slabs of rock, some looking for all the world like the silhouettes of giant sleeping animals. As they descended deeper into the pit of the cave the rocks became smoother, more like river stones…..and Ake became aware of the sound of the underground torrent, rising like the voices and cries of an uncountable host – the memory of his grandfathers dream message, its vision of the ocean of souls flashed across his mind. He felt himself being drawn towards its shores…….

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Two strong hands grasped Ake’s shoulders and the obsidian light of two shining eyes peered with a penetrating intensity into his own. Pemba raised a finger to his lips, making a firm sign to remain absolutely quiet, slowly letting his finger fall away – the sight momentarily pulled Ake out of his vision. Pemba nodded briefly and, stepping to one side, gestured to Ake to go first.

Ahead, the pathway levelled out and then seemed to come to a halt against a wall of pitch darkness. This signalled another fissure, a cave entrance within the cave. He heard Pemba following as he slowly entered the subterranean night, his eyes scanning the darkness before him.

The hard rock beneath Ake’s feet gave way to soft fine sand and, stretching out his hands in front of him, he edged slowly forward. He began to make out very feint filaments of colour in the air ahead, but, was it a trick of the dark, a play of some inner vision that he could not put a shape or form to? He paused and strained with all his senses to find some clue as to how to go forward. A fast moving streak of green light cut across his field of vision and he suppressed a gasp as the memory flashed across his mind of the spider’s luminous thread from the previous night. Then all was still.

It was at that moment that Ake realised that he was not only standing in the midst of impenetrable darkness, but, it had become totally silent. The seering doubt of his confusion span him instinctively on his heels, and then he did gasp. He did not see the way back to the chasm as  he had expected he would, instead, there was no light, anywhere. For a moment it was as if every external sense of the world, save the feeling of sand beneath his feet, had become extinguished and Ake, his head spinning with disorientation, slumped onto to the soft sand in a faint.

In the moment that he came round, Ake wondered if he was indeed awake. He blinked but there was no change to the darkness. He reached out with his hand to prop himself up, but, instead of finding sand beneath his palm he briefly layed his hand on something soft….his hand recoiled. Then he recognised the feeling that his fingers had registered…it was the divining bag. He had forgotten all about it…..but, how had it gotten here. Pemba. It must have been put there earlier by Pemba…..

He reached for the bag and, sitting up, drew it to his chest and let the comforting feeling of its familiarity fold around his heart.

“See……”

The voice came like a finely settling rain of dust upon his ears…….

“See…..my little one……”

The rush of doubt that Ake felt on hearing the voice slowly gave way to a rising fire of recognition in his belly…….he knew that voice.

“It has been so long, beautiful child…..my Chenge…..see……”

Ake suddenly felt his throat constrict and he sucked in a breath, holding it as the memory rose  upon a tide of emotion…….

“Mama…..?!”

A soft shuffling, just a few feet away to his side, pulled his head around……but he could see nothing.

“See…….”

“Mama….is that you….I cant see you…..”

“I am safe little one…….”

Ake hardly dared move, but, this time the voice was infront of him, and closer. The green luminous thread re-emerged before his eyes and began turning about itself, making circles and spirals that left vapour trails of cold mist in the pitch darkness. Slowly they wove a shape in the air and became an oval of softly shimmering light.

Eyes appeared, a nose and mouth, rounded cheeks, forming a face…..and then Ake knew. He was gazing in total disbelief at the face of his mother!

“I have a message for you, my little one……”

Ake was transfixed. He would so have loved to run into his mothers arms, but, there was…..only her face before him.

“Mama…….mama, what has happened…..is it really you?!”

“Listen to the Spider Mother, Chenge…..she is helping you…….I am far away, but…..we will meet again…..follow her thread, little one……”

“We will meet again, Mama? But, when….where are you……what has happened to you?”

“Look for the tall one, the white one, he bears a sign……follow the thread, little one…..”

At the mention of the ‘white one’ Ake’s heart recoiled and a feeling he had never felt before welled up in his belly. It asked him to do something, anything, to bring his mother back.

“The white one mama? Surely you don’t mean one of the people of the dead…..!”

“He bears a sign…..you will know it……follow, little one…..my Chenge….”

And with this the face began to dissolve before Ake’s eyes.

“Mama….don’t go……mama!”

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Ake heard his voice echo softly as the face slipped away into darkness. He began to weep and clutched the diviner’s bag as if it were the last memory of a world he had once known. Another soft shuffling sound broke across his grief  and, suddenly realising that he could once more hear the sound of the rushing river, he jumped to his feet. But, the darkness remained.

The flash of green light cut swiftly across his eyes and left a single thread of mist suspended in the air. A thin crack of brilliant white emerged from the mist and grew into a vertical fissure in the pitch darkness that surrounded him. The crack widened and Ake could see a movement in its midst…..a figure was walking towards him. He recognised the shoulders and face of his mentor, Pemba.

“This place is the Spider’s shrine, younger brother……Ake?”

Ake was unsure of what he was seeing, he did not know whether to trust his senses.

“Ake?….what have you seen.”

The concern in Pemba’s voice was strangely reassuring and Ake felt his shoulders relax a little, the weight of the diviners bag now helping the world to solidify about him.

Pemba stopped a few steps away and cocked his head, staring at the bag……

“Well……” he seemed lost for words as he stepped closer, raising his hand to point at the diviner’s bag clutched to Ake’s chest.

“The day is full of surprises……this is most unusual….but, a good sign…..heh”

Pemba looked at Ake’s face with a soft concern. Laying his hands on Ake’s shoulders he said, “Come, tell me what happened…..we have an offering to make, but, you look as though…..”

“It was Mama, Pemba….she was here, I saw her and….she spoke to me”

“Spoke to you?!” The surprise in Pembas voice could not be disguised. The old diviner considered a moment and then, reaching behind his back for the drinking gourd he was carrying, he led Ake by the arm to the side of the cave. Ake realised that  he could see the interior of the subterranean chamber quite clearly now. They were in a small oval cavity that reminded Ake of the adobe huts in which the families of his village lived. The walls were smooth and appeared to have a coating of fine clay. The back of the chamber was feintly illuminated from its entrance, but, surprisingly, Ake could see that the underground room was entirely empty.

As they rested their backs against the wall, Pemba caught the look of confusion on Ake’s face.

“I will explain…..all in good time, but….what did your mother tell you, younger brother, tell me what you want to”

Ake related everything that had happened from the moment that he had set foot into the darkness and, as his mentor listened, Pemba gave a nod at everything he heard. When Ake had come to the end of his account they sat in silence for a moment and then, offering the gourd to his young ward, Pemba let out a sigh…..

“It seems the Spider Mother has given to you a gift, brother Ake, and a gift of no small importance – I will tell you just why I am saying this after we have made the offering, if you can wait…..” and, at this Pemba rose to his feet.

A tender smile greeted Ake’s eyes as he looked up.

“….and, we must make it a special gift in return for her kindness, eh?”

Ake was surpised in the next moment to see Pemba scooping handfulls of sand to the side from the floor of the subterranian room – he was close to its center and the sand was dry, sliding slowly back in on itself. But, soon, Pemba’s hand scraped against a solid surface. He brushed the sand aside to reveal a large round circle of stone with a wedge shaped notch cut out of its edge. Pemba carefully placed his hand into the gap and with a strong pull lifted the stone away, flipping it onto its back, revealing a smaller perfectly round hole beneath……

“Bring the divining bag over Ake” he said, as he brushed the sand clean from the edge of the hole. “Now…..see what comes out” he said gesturing with his chin towards the bag…..

“…..go on, don’t be afraid…..theres something in there we need”.

Ake unwound the strap from the neck of the bag and cautiously put his hand inside. The feeling of soft fur met Ake’s fingers and, feeling his way down the sides, he  found several smaller leather bags nestled together. He looked to Pemba……

“Yes….thats it….”

Gripping the neck of one of the small bags he slowly eased it out…..it was no bigger than his fist and dyed a very dark blue that reminded Ake of the night sky.

“Ahhh…..now open it”, said Pemba, obviously intrigued at the choice.

The binding was old, but, once Ake had eased it away, a sharp odour emerged instantly from the bag, making Ake’s nose twitch.

“Take one pinch” Pemba instructed, watching carefully as his protege reached in with his thumb and fore-fingers. He pulled out a small quantity of pitch black powder, just like charcoal dust, but, very slightly oily to the touch.

The core of the Milky Way at a distance of some 26,000 light years from Earth.

“This is ‘black snuff’, though amongst the Spider people it is known as ‘night medicine’. It is one of the most valuable healing preparations we make, amongst the diviners, that is. It is for use only by those who have knowledge of its effects. Without that knowledge it is simply charcoal, to the unknowing. It seems I’ll be teaching you how to make it very soon,” Pemba said with an approving nod. Ake tried to look more closely, without dropping any of the powder.

“Is this what I am to give to the Spider mother, Pemba?”

“Well, it looks like you are being called upon to make this medicine a sign of gratitude to her, yes, but…..it needs a special song to accompany it……”

Ake looked questioningly at his mentor…….but, Pemba simply raised his eyebrows, smiling with a little nod…..

“But, which song should I sing…..?”

“Think of where we are going….and what has just happened here….then let it come out, sing it……and, remember, say thank-you to the Grandmother Spider”

Ake liked to sing, it came naturally to him, especially when he was busy with something that took time….but, he had never tried to make a song out of things that had not happened yet, or feelings as strong and deep as those that the memory of his mother had brought up in him. Then, without warning, as he was pondering these things, a single syllable of sound escaped his lips…..and before he knew it a melody was springing up in him. It seemed to accompany the images that drifted through his mind.

“Sing it into the ‘night medicine’ Ake, then give the medicine to the hole….but, keep singing until the song has run its course.”

The melody arose with a slow dignity from Ake and into the ‘night medicine’. He felt its power gently flowing through him at first, then he began swaying his body from side to side. For a moment it was as if he was sitting in the middle of a small boat on a rolling expanse of water. Stars appeared above him following the motion of the boat. He closed his eyes and let the melody pour into the night medicine. He felt his hand release the black powder into the darkness at his feet…..the song grew stronger.

A gust of wind swept strands of hair around his cheek and he opened his eyes……the stars above remained, swirling around a tall stout pole that extended above him. There was a triangular sheet of ochre skins attached to its top and bottom and Ake quickly realised he was speeding over the water in a hide covered boat, like the ones he had seen in the Lake People’s village.

“You must listen to the stars, let them give their stories to you, brother Ake,” a powerful voice sounded behind him.

Ake spun round to find his grandfather sitting at the stern, his strong old hands holding the end of a steering paddle, his eyes staring towards the heavens….for a moment Ake was speechless.

“….they will take you beyond the horizon and return you safely home.”

“Grandfather!”

“Look!” And the old man pointed over Ake’s shoulder, his eyes widening.

Ake glanced involuntarily in the direction his grandfather had pointed. In that instant a single star suddenly expanded and sent out a blinding flash that stunned Ake. For a moment he could see nothing but white light. Then shapes slowly began to emerge, blurred and vague at first, and there was a tickling feeling on his cheek.

Ake shook his head and caught site of the small green iridescent beetle just as it disappeared beneath the sand. There was a sound like many voices speaking very fast, as if heard from a long way off……then the dragonfly darted over his head and stopped in mid-air just an arms length in front of Ake.

He had been lying on the cool sand, but, for how long! Where the beetle had been there was now a small conical mound of sand. It must have been only an eyeblink, yet, he felt as though it were an eternity. The dragonfly turned on its centre and a second later sped off down the valley between the dunes.

“I’m not loosing sight of you this time,” Ake said under his breath and, jumping to his feet, he slung Pemba’s blanket and the diviner’s bag over his shoulder and set off after the iridescent blue being………he did not see the swift shadow that darted away across the sand ahead of him……..

aqua-libra

 

Chenge and the Spider © copyright Rob Purday 2013
The Beetle and the Dragonfly © copyright Rob Purday 2013

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Look out for the continuing story of Chenge and the Spider at a new dedicated website launching soon!

Welcoming 2014 – Year of the Yang Wood Horse

 

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Hey Dear friends and readers @ Owlmirror, thank you for your patience and for keeping the embers glowing here – its good to be back after taking a longer than anticipated sabbatical from the www and to pick up the beat by welcoming the new date on the calendar, 2014. This is a year that promises much energy and empowerment to all freedom loving spirits! With this being the year of the Yang Wood Horse we can look forward to a time of powerful initiatives, of those freedom loving souls who are here to defend nature and make a real difference coming to the fore and making a bigger impact upon the world stage. And, with strong spirits in mind, this will also be a year of opportunity to bring four square solid devotion to the Earth loving wild nature that pulses through all life and into the central hearth of all our lives – the image of the wild horse is a powerful talisman for our journey ahead! S0, thank you to all friends of Owlmirror for visiting, for following here, and for all your comments and ‘likes’ – its your presence and involvement that really makes it, and, we have much to look forward to………

Owlmirror is happy to announce that we now have a facebook page too – the link will be going in the side bar and header but you can go directly to the page here (you will need to sign in to fb first off course) – the fb page gives greater freedom to post more regular links and articles, including one-off items, special opportunities and offers, especially for artwork, readings and medicine work. You will find links there to every new article posted here and at our sister site Living Astrology, all of which have the particular Owlmirror focus and flavour, and, its a community page, so, if you would like to join the conversation and get more of Owlmirror please drop in, ‘follow’ and ‘like’ us – it’ll be great to see you there and help the community grow!

The Living Astrology site has been renamed and revamped with a new format – previously the site ran under the title ‘Root Medicine of the Stars’, but, continuing the theme of Earth based spirituality within astrological practice the new name reflects more clearly the practical heart that this divination path infuses into life. Posts at Living Astrology include astro-divinations of the current and significant upcoming celestial alignments and events, as well as bringing key videos and news of developments within the astrology world to regular readers and followers…….the recent article ‘Stargate to a Revolution’ broke all previous viewing records and more people are now following Living Astrology since its re-launch. The latest article ‘A Most Mysterious Time’ looks into the first lunation of 2014 – so, thanks to everyone who has visited,  ‘liked’ and commented on articles there and is following the new site!

Keeping up Owlmirror’s tradition of a more left field and in-depth exploration of path-making themes in our times the next article up here will be focusing on the current Venus retrograde period, its significance in the flow of current events as well as the unique opportunity it brings to connect with a deeper indigenous perspective. There is a pulse at work through this retrograde period that belongs to Venus’ 251 year cycle. This is a truly rare moment that embodies complete synchronicity with the solar seasonal cycle and with it opens a gateway for engaging with the bigger picture, an event that will not happen again for many generations. Venus stationed and went retrograde at the December solstice, and soon, her station and following direct motion in the heavens at Imbolc will signify a turning point we should not and, in reality, cannot afford to miss! The veils are falling from the Goddess as She journeys to the deepest levels of the underworld. Just as the ancients knew Venus’ significance to the earthbound inauguration of and most auspicious synchrony between ceremonies, the celestial realms and sacred sites, we too can gain the benefit of the message She delivers through the exquisite timing, symbolism and grace of Venus’ celestial dance. We look forward to a time of powerful harmony, all the more auspicious as Her dance augers a brilliant start to the Chinese New Year – Venus goes direct exactly as the year of the Yang Wood Horse opens!

So…….Much Gratitude, the Peace of a strong loving heart and the creative unrest and beauty of the wild natural spirit be with you through this year!

Blessed BeCastlerigg_stone_circle[1]

Dancing in the Dark

“They used to say in days of old, the Magpie was a sacred bird,

beloved of the goddess, heeded by all travellers-oh…..

one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy……

…..five for silver, six for gold…..seven for a secret never to be told

the Sun was jealous of her love, and stole Her children from Her nest,

She searches for them to this day, the seeds of star-light from her heart

one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy….

five for silver, six for gold…..seven for a secret never to be told

and, to all but those who honour Her, who wear her colours and and follow her call,

her mysteries will hidden be…………Magpie, keeper of the Magic-Fire.

one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy……

…..five for silver, six for gold…..seven for a secret never to be told

The old woman had turned up unexpectedly, out of the blue, as if she had materialised from the boundaries of day and night itself, and had walked across the edge of dusk unseen to sit at our fire…….she was travel weary, you could tell, but, there was a certain vigour about her, an energy with a strong quiet presence – little did we suspect its source or the gifts she was carrying as she was offered a place and settled herself, gathering her long cape and robes about her…….we all looked to her expectantly, and she, as if gathering us in slowly round the circle, her face a map of weathered journeys, and stories waiting to unfold……

Her eyes – I will not forget those eyes, mysterious pools of tender wisdom, fathomless worlds, thresholds of sky and ocean, and the strange sensation that, as she beheld us we were each being touched by an invisible force, a mystery enfolding itself around us.

“Let me rest here a while and in return I will tell you a story…….”, she had said, brushing the dust of the road from her robes and folding them about her. There was a promise in this, and a balm that eased our surprise at her appearance in our midst, and, instantly you knew – here was the voice of experience, of an elder. She knew how to play this situation, was an old hand with this opening gambit. We are all hungry for the warmth and companionship provided by the sweet medicine of the fire, but, it is also ever the way with humans that we are reluctant to invite the unknown into our midst. So, an exchange of gifts is often the sweetener that encourages us to drop our boundaries, when the fire is ours to give and the unknown comes knocking….but, stories, they are things of power.

If we had known the nature of the story about to be given would we still have opened our circle to its medicines? As the old woman went on to say of the gift she had to offer, once she had found her spot and began unfolding the story-tellers bundle in her lap, “……..it will bring flavour to some and be as salt to the wounds of others, for, on this night will open a portal, a rift in time, a threshold into deeper wisdom, the Ocean Mother’s wisdom….”

…and here she paused, pulling us further in…..the portentious scent of fate and destiny twisting about her as she whispered to the night….

“…….yes, womb-wisdom, crone wisdom; listen, then…..listen with your bones…..from here, within the temple of your heart,” she said, placing the flats of her hands upon her chest and spreading them outwards in a wide all-embracing gesture.

That night, as the calendar makers and star watchers had foretold, the Moon fell into darkening, and, as Her light bled into the night, the ocean hushed as the story-teller invoked the spirit of  the moment….beneath the canopy of stars above the southern ocean…….

“Listen to an old woman’s news – it comes from far distant lands, but, heed this message well, for its edge is close at hand………when earthen shadow falls, and the lunar mother removes her mask……we remember her true face once more; her face, so sanguine, as if lit by embers from within….yes, we remember – we remember…….when the moon-light becomes the womb-light…..how  it was, before we put up our masks, after our masks fall,”

….her words spun strange and familiar worlds behind our eyes, and her face, like the night, steeped in thought, radiated with the light of another world…..

“It comes around and goes around, this merry dance. It beats its slow steady heart beat to a rhythm ancient with memory, opening the shell of time, the second wound, the wound that receives the golden seed, bleeding fire into the night. Herstory is the history of wounds – She pulses, enchants with luminous dust, and pulls, and pulls, and pulls…She feels, and She heals.” She stooped to scoop a handfull of sand and we watched the grains fall slowly through her fingers, leaving a small shell, a spiral wonder of sacred energy nestling in her palm.

The elders and day-keepers had caught her meaning and sent the whisper around the circle – she was a Moon Mother, an Aluna, holy woman of the Moon, midwife of the mysteries – she had come to give warning of the eclipse, we should listen carefully to her teaching, there may be an initiation afoot, something unforeseen in the darkening of the Moon…….

The Moon Mother let the hum of words that were rippling round the circle settle and, holding the shell between thumb and fore-finger, raised it towards the center of the circle. “There is one present here who carries the mark of this day…..”. She paused and cast her shining eyes around the circle……no-one stirred. “All in good time, all in good time…..you will know who you are before the nights out, and, then……” she offered the shell in outstretched hand…..”this mystery, and all contained within it, shall be yours to hold for this village……this night, She will come amongst us”. A murmur, touched with nervousness, excitement and fore-boding, swept through the circle.

“But, do not be in any hurry to fix meaning to my words…….I give them to you by way of protection, of which I pray you shall need none, but, there is more than one shadow loosed in the world this night…..may the power of the Great Mother be with us……” – her voice dropped off as she delivered the warning, a loud crack and stream of sparks exploding from the fire as she slowly got to her feet.

The old woman stepped into the firelight, her voice returning stronger now…..”Remember her and remember her well. She who wears the three-fold masks, the fertile-scented Flower of Dawn, the swollen-bellied Fruit of Night, the wise-horned Eye of Dusk, shedding and renewing, as skins and veils, as spiralling patterns in the serpentine dance…..She moves, and She moves us.” At that moment, as if summoned, the wind blows the shell from her hand, and a far distant bird calls, cackling laughter carried on the billowing air……..she raised her chin to the horizon and sniffed at the wind as it swirled away, carrying the smells and textures of the forest. We all smelt it, that fresh breath of life and its undertone, the rich hummus of life-giving death, the balance giver. “Pine and Birch,” she said, “the grandmothers and maiden warriors of the deep lands of memory – those forests remember you, you know……..and they have their own memories, ancestors of your own, waiting for you to return, to meet with you once more in your journeys and dreams…..earthen shadows, spectral lights, liminal flames, dancing in the dark, tricky, and…..” her voice now filled with a ripple of dark humour…..”ripe for the picking……”

I notice a few nervous glances passing around the circle – what is this, does anyone understand the meaning of her words? She bows down as if looking directly into the earth and half whispers….

“Remember, She moves us, not onwards, but, inwards and……with every turning, reveals the gateways, thresholds of wonders, guarding the grove of mysteries,  woven into concealment……you will meet her first within the serpentine folds of Wysteria, the flower of the ‘womens’ mysteries’….glancing up and casting her gaze around the circle of fire-lit faces, her gaze comes to rest on a young boy, himself at the threshold of adulthood……”of this, men’s knowing shall know nothing……..save his own luminous shadow, dancing in search of himself, his beloved.” A murmur of wry laughter runs amongst the elders present and sets heads wagging and nodding. She has us in the palm of her hand…….

“…how many of you know,” she continues, her gaze still circling on the gathering, “what lies across the threshold of her inner sanctuary……”. It is a direct challenge, no doubt, but, the wiley old crone knows that for those who do know this is and can only be a rhetorical question – this wise old bird is fishing for a different kind of response……”She initiates all who would be re-united within themselves…….from within Her hidden recess, holiest of holies, with every darkening Moon she beats Her signal and calls – ‘have you the mettle’, she asks…….

I had not suspected this night would bring to my own life such a question, such a calling, yet there it was…..and the bone-wise  midwife in our midst caught my eye as she said……”wearing her true face, She opens Her oracular eye and sees into the deepest realms of our hearts…..”. She winks at me and then, closing her eyes spreads wide her arms, holding a white skinned frame drum before her, beating a steady heartbeat…..

Suddenly the night feels chill with expectation and a loud crack explodes from the fire – “How would we know her, but, to join the dance…..come to her and remember…….remember, at her bidding, why we came here……and dance…..who we were before we came…..” – the drumbeat has an enticing quality, her voice riding its beats, becoming a chant…..

“…….She is the chanting storyteller of our lives before we lived them…..she rides the Spirit Horse of our Earth’s dreaming back to the beginning……..spiralling around itself upon the axis of the stars…….rising on the swollen tide we journey with Her through the crack in time.” Her chants create waves upon waves…..cross-patterns out of which our very soul stuff rises at the beats. “She weaves the pulse into this world as we are born forgetful of her song……She weaves her song into our soul that we may remember why we came here…….until…….” and she whorls around, sending the tassels from her long cloak and skirts flying in a wave around her…….it is as a signal, and now we are all on our feet….

“…Her call is heeded…..spirit walkers, kith and kindred, Sons and Daughters of Silver and Gold, red-white-black words, songs of memory and possibility, threading soul paths through these worlds…..follow her, follow her…” and now our feet have become infected with her rhythm, our backs twitching and hips swaying, hands rising in gestures on her delicious beat….

“….in another time, another time……once upon a time that is no-time…..time before time….” something is happening, the light of the fire is growing, its flames are expanding and I see figures in their midst, wearing robes of flashing feathers, blue and black and white and green, iridescent with night’s magic…….”She comes, She of many faces, with Her dark green cackling laughter and flashing wings….falling and rising above the churning ocean.” At this point I do not remember if she spoke these words or if it was the voice of the one she had called into our midst, who spoke of the time before time, the beginning, of memory and possibility, who spoke of Aluna…..

…….how long we danced I cannot say, only to say that we found ourselves close in on the fire, or the fire seemed to have grown…..we had entered another space and time and, in that place, the voice pulled me further in…..

“…..She weaves her pathway across the southern seas this night – her flashing wings, her iridescent tail, her coat of tricks….hear this and remember”…..the flames part and the old woman steps into the embers, gesturing me to follow…….as I step upon the radiant bed of dancing liquid light the sparks fly up around me and suddenly I am spinning amongst stars…….her voice leads me on……

I remember one other thing from that journey – I returned momentarily to hear a great roar of thunder issue from her drum, and tailing slowly away, bringing the circle back, ecstatic and breathing hard, slowly to a standstill…….and as the drum wound down I heard her say these words……”know this,” she  whispered between her teeth, hoarse and urgent, “Silent Thunder is coming but Her heart beats yet and with the one who follows me will reverberate still…..look for her coming, from beyond the clashing rocks…….when Sun rises and she returns in those stars the world will see its fruit on solstice eve…..on solstice eve, another world will remember this one…..but, in this one she has her gaurdians still, who sing her praises still……” – little did I know that night, that I would be the one to return……

I awoke amongst spiralling branches bedecked with lilac coloured blossoms, the old woman tending a small fire in a stone hearth nearby – a star specked sky was visible through the bower and a feint streak of luminous green and turquoise light was bleeding into the horizon beyond the medicine woman. Long whisps of her hair  hung loose from its braids and, without turning, she spoke to me…….

“All the eclipses in the world would not unravel the knots we have become entangled in, knots in time, that breed forgetting……….were it not for the persistance of Her memories…….even when we recognise them not for what they are, even when they hide the truth in plain sight…..but, welcome my daughter, for we have them still, right now, where you are……” and she turned to greet me with a smile of total love that put a feeling in me as if the Sun had just arisen and kissed the full Moon in my heart……that was the beginning of my apprenticeship with Aluna, Magpie Woman as she told me she was known, medicine woman of the Earth and Stars, keeper of the sacred flame of Sweet Medicine………

When I returned and as people asked me what happened on that night, “where did you go, what happened on your journey, did the old woman take you,” and countless other questions, I tell them this – on that night, when we came together around our village fire to listen to the ocean breathing, to soak ourselves in the starlight and let the beauty and wonder of it all wash us clean, I had a dream…..I heard Her voice, Her cackling laughter, singing on the wind, carrying the scent of Pine and Birch, rich earth and mossy leaf-mold, and felt the presence of……magic……once more……

……lest you wish upon Her return, lest you meet her with a kiss

lest you pass through her tenfold gates, her secrets she will show you

…….eights a wish, nines a kiss, ten is the bird you must not miss

sacred keeper of star-lore on Earth,

Sweet Medicine Fire of Wisdom….

one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy,

five for silver six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told….

…eights a wish and nines a kiss, ten is the bird you cannot miss

she dances in the dark and lights the way,

Sweet Medicine Fire of Wisdom

Coyote & the Shadow

……long, long time ago there lived ol’ man Coyote and his wife – they were perfectly happy until, one day, Coyote’s wife became ill and died. Coyote wept and wept and wept, he was besides himself with grief. And it seemed like, in Coyotes world at that time, the whole world was awash with chaos!

Now, Death had been circling around and, seeing how it was with Coyote,  Death set his spirit down beside the ol’man and said – ‘its alright Coyote, I can take you to the place that your wife’s gone to, but, there are rules…..’. Coyote was somewhat consoled by this proposition and said, ‘oh man, I will do anything….’, so Death’s spirit said back, ‘well, you must do everything that I tell you, no matter what, right down to the last whisker – godit?!’ and ol’man Coyote was beside himself with longing, so he said, ‘yeh, man, anything, just say it and I’ll do it……’

…….So, that was it and off they set and, and as they were going along, the death spirit made sure Coyote had got it – ‘….everything, mind…’ said Death to Coyote, and ol’Coyote, dragging his tongue in the dirt with grief said ‘….yeh, yeh, just say what you want me to do and I’ll do it’. But, the trouble was, Coyote himself was not sure just what he was following right then, as all he could see was a shadow, but, Coyote longed to be with his wife again and so he followed along behind the shadow and out into the prairie they went……

…the path was long with many strange sights, taking them up the rise of the plain and down the rise of the plain and up again – and, on they went, until Death pointed ahead and said ‘hey, you see there Coyote, hundreds of horses – looks like a big round-up down there’. Squinting his eyes and looking where Death was pointing Coyote said, ‘oh yeh, hundreds of ‘em…’, but, he could see none, ‘…..you’re right, a big round-up!’ So, this is how it was as they were coming nearer to the land of the dead…..and on they went……

….until, Death said, ‘hey, look Coyote, great bunches of serviceberries hanging there…..’, and ol Coyote squinting up his eyes said, ‘oh yeh….’, but, his belly was telling him what his eyes could not, and the spirit, knowing Coyote could see nothing, said, ‘now, lets eat – when you see me reach up, you reach up too, and when I pull down the branch, you pull down the branch…’, and Coyote said, ‘yes, yes, I will do it….’. So, Death reached up, pulled down the branch and, even tho Coyote could not see the berries going into the spirit’s mouth, Coyote did just the same and they both sat there eating……ol’man Coyote watched that spirit’s every move and imitated it. ‘Uhhuh, these are real good serviceberries’ said the spirit – ‘Yeh man,’ said Coyote, ‘good job we found ‘em’,. And thats how it was when they were nearly at the land of the dead, and, when when they’d had their fill, off they set again……

….until, the spirit stopped again and said, ‘Well, we’re about there – look here, theres a great lodge here, and your wife is sitting somewhere in there, but, its so very very long I’d better go in ahead and ask after her’. So, Coyote waited, and eventually Death came back and said, ‘ ok…..they told me where your wife is’, and ol’man Coyote listened intently to everything Death told him. ‘Just here is a door through which we’ll enter the lodge, so, do everything as I tell you, exactly as you see me do it, godit?’ – ‘Uhhuh….’ said Coyote, and so, Death said, ‘I will lift up the door flap, bend down low, and enter…..then, you do exactly the same…’ and so Death entered and Coyote followed him, doing exactly the same things as the Death spirit….

Now, it happened that ol’man Coyote’s wife was sitting right there, near to the entrance, so, the spirit said to Coyote, ‘sit right here, next to your wife’, and they both sat right there. Then the spirit added, ‘your wife will now go and prepare food for us….’, and all this while Coyote could see nothing, except that he was sitting right there in the open prairie with nothing in sight, and yet, he could feel the presence of the shadow next to him…..

So Coyote’s wife prepared the food and Death said, ‘now, lets eat…’, and the shadow reached down and brought hand to mouth and ate. Ol’man Coyote could see only prairie dust, but, there they sat and ate…..Coyote imitated everything, just as his companion had said……until, after a while it seemed Coyote’s wife had put away the food and Death said, ‘you stay put here, I’ve got some people to see’, and out went the spirit……..

Soon enough the spirit returned, saying, ‘things here are different from the way things are in the land of the living. When the dusk comes down here the dawn has come up in your land and when it dawns for us the darkness is growing for you’. So, by this time it had grown dark, and Coyote could hear voices whispering, talking in faint half-tones, all around him. And darkness set in, real dark. Well, oh boy, Coyote saw many fires in a long house, and there they all were, in a very very large lodge where many fires were burning. And, he saw all the various people, looking like shadow forms, but, he could recognise some of them. And, he saw that his wife was sitting by his side…….

You can imagine, but, ol’man Coyote was overjoyed! And, he joyfully greeted many of his old friends who he could see there too! That ol’man Coyote, how happy he was!! Up he lept and up and down the ailse between the fires he marched, going from side to side, stopping to talk with people. All through the night he did this. And, he could see the door through which he and death had entered too…..

….until, at last, the dawn started coming up, and death came to Coyote and said, ‘well, our darkness is falling here, and pretty soon you will not see us, but, you must stay right here. Do not go anywhere, at all. Just stay right here and in the evening you’ll see all the people here again, godit?!’ – so, Coyote said, ‘oh, yes, friend, why would I possibly want to go……’

…so, up came the dawn and Coyote found himself sitting in the midst of the prairie. And he spent the whole day there. Well, phewee! It was hot, and he was dying from the heat, parched and dry, thirsting from the heat all day long. And yet, ol’man Coyote stayed there several days, suffering in the day, but, when the night came, making merry in the great lodge with his wife and friends……

Coyote lost track of the days, but, one day the spirit of Death came up to him and said, ‘tomorrow you will go home, Coyote. And, you will take your wife with you…..’ – ‘oh friend, thats wonderful’ said Coyote, ‘…but, I’m having such a good time here with my wife and all my old friends, I’d like to stay here….’ – ‘uhhuh’, said Death, ‘but, tomorrow is the day you must return and so do as I tell you, remember, and don’t do anything foolish , nothing foolish at all, godit?!’ Ol’man Coyote was shuffling his feet when he said ‘Ok’, so Death went on…’don’t yield to any urges or queer notions now, follow exactly what I tell you.”

Coyote listened as the Death spirit told him…….’there are five mountains, and you will travel for five days. Your wife will be with you, but, you must never ever touch her. At all. No yielding to strange impulses now – talk to her, yes, but never touch her. Only after you have crossed and descended from the fifth mountain may you do whatever you like……’ – and, ol’man Coyote took it all in and said ‘yes, friend’.

So, when the dawn came up again, ol’man Coyote and his wife set off, left that place……

At first it seemed that he was travelling alone, yet, he was dimly aware of his wife’s presence walking along there behind him. And, after the first mountain came up and they had crossed it, Coyote could feel her presence some more – she was definitely there, if only a shadow. On they went, and on crossing the second mountain, they set camp, as they did each night at the foot of each mountain. Coyote would build a little conical lodge with a fire at its center and there they would sit, he on one side of the fire, she on the other. And, each day her form appeared clearer and clearer.

Well, the Death spirit was counting the days since Coyote and his wife had left the land of the dead and, figuring the distance they had travelled, said ‘I hope that ol’ Coyote does everything right, as I told him, and takes his wife through to the world beyond’.

So it was that Coyote and his wife were spending their last night, their fourth in the little conical lodge, and on the morrow she would again assume the character of a living person. Being as it was the last night they were camping Coyote could see his wife very clearly now, as if she were a real person sitting opposite him. He could see her face and body very clearly now, but, he only looked and dared not touch her.

But, suddenly a joyous impulse seized Coyote; the joy of having his wife back again overwhelmed him. He jumped to his feet and rushed over to embrace her! His wife cried out, ‘Stop! Stop! Coyote! Do not touch me! Stop!’ – her warning had no effect. Coyote rushed over to his wife and just as he touched her body, she vanished. She disappeared – returned to the land of the dead, the shadowland.

When the Death spirit learned of Coyote’s folly he became deeply angry. ‘You inveterate doer of this kind of thing!’, Death said, for he knew Coyote all too well, ‘I told you to do everything I told you, not to do anything foolish. You Coyote, were about to establish the practice of returning from death. Only a short time away the human race is coming, but you have spoiled everything and established for them death as it is…….’

Now Coyote wept and wept…..and eventually decided, ‘Tomorrow I shall return to see them again’, and, the following morning he started back for the land of the dead. As he went along he began to recognise the places where he and his spirit friend had passed before. He found the place where the spirit had seen the great round-up of horses and began to do all the things that they had done on their journey to the shadowland. ‘Oh, look at the horses; it looks like a great round-up’ he said…..and, on he went until, he came to the place where the spirit had pointed out all the serviceberries – ‘Oh, such serviceberries, lets pick and eat some of them’, he said……and he went through all the motions of picking and eating berries.

On he went, and, finally, Coyote came to the place where the great long lodge had stood. He said to himself, ‘Now, when I hold up the doorflap and enter, you must do the same’. In fact, he remembered all the little things his friend the Death spirit had said and done. So, when he saw the spot where he had sat before, he went and sat there, and as he sat down said, ‘Now, your wife has brought us food. Let us eat.’ And, he went through the motions of eating again….

….eventually darkness fell, and the full moon rose – Coyote listened for voices, and he looked around for the fires and everything else, but, nothing appreared. Ol’ Coyote sat there in the middle of the prairie, in the dark. He sat there all night, but, the lodge did not appear again, nor did the spirit ever return to him………and so it was with death, when humans came to the world.

The Lynx’s Tale

When Lynx comes visiting our neck of the woods we’d best be quiet and listen……..she does not always make an overt appearance, in fact, in spirit as in the wilds she is often felt before seen, if seen at all. Her energy is uncanny – she is coy, wiley and elusive, but, she has real presence. Even when Lynx remains unseen she sets a certain tone – stilling, watchfull, alert to the slightest vibration and movement. Her eye-sight is considered second to none, with a laser like clairvoyant quality that can pierce the veils of material reality and give access to the hidden world that fuels its manifestation. With enhanced awareness Lynx can help us experience the world in all its multi-layered complexity, but, all of these qualities have also made her, like the witches familiar, the target of mistrust and suspicion.  

As many of the old stories will tell, when Lynx is about you’d better watch-out. But, it is an ill deserved reputation, born mostly out of fear and the threat of being truly seen that an impure heart will feel in her presence. It is also born out of ignorance, for she brings awareness to the energies that connect us all at the level of the finest vibrations, an area of experience commonly outside the everyday range of humans. This is the zone of interconnectedness through which animals sense apriori physical events in the world. And, if we follow her and allow her to inform our own inner knowing, she will be a powerful and pragmatic ally, especially if we work with her through an awareness centered within the heart. From this place we can both open out, expand and fine tune our awareness while remaining protected within seeming invisibility, seated at the core. For these qualities alone her medicines offer a balm and useful strategy amidst the unrest that is unfolding in the outer world. But, there is much more to her than meets the eye……

Traditionally, Lynx is seen as the guardian of secrets. She knows. This is a role that carries a hefty responsilibilty, that of the protection of power as it resides in the form of hidden knowledge and wisdoms. When she comes into our awareness we know that we are being given notice to look more deeply at our own responsibilities. Active and overt use of those powers is not a part of her medicine, but, for us these are crucial responsibilites which we would do well to pay good attention to in this time, and she can help us here. Through alerting us to them she can help us fine tune our own sensibilities in relation to the innate powers we carry and how we use them. She can give us insight into how others do likewise, and this makes a person with Lynx medicine seem equally uncanny, and, as a result, equally open to projection of those fears that are generated by a heart that is out of balance.

There are no flies on Lynx and very little escapes her attention – in fact  she,  not  so much demands honesty as, requires that we and others face our own dis-honesties – sooner or later they will come out anyway as a result of her presence! She can however also help us find balanced empowerment through admitting them, one of her healing gifts. Elusive and hidden as she often-times is, Lynx can deliver the gift of responsibility without ego investment. In this she is a clarifier of the heart, a wonderous magical being bearing great gifts. And those very gifts, by their active and true nature, help us to source and generate the heart’s true power in the form of courage. It is a special kind of courage that cuts through the spells and illusions cast by the allies of the dark side, that bind us to their will. With Lynx as our ally we can free ourselves from their machinations. The knack with her medicine is to learn to ‘listen with the eyes’ as things unfold in their dance – with this kind of seeing our eyes touch the world with hidden power. She helps us cut through the fog of deception, get our feet back on our path and feel the magic again. If we are to become guardians of the earth garden this gift will be essential to us.

Lynx is also an initiator here as she can also help us evolve our own powers in relationship with those present within the natural environment, and develop our responsibilities around how we work with them. In this Lynx is also an archetype for the spiritual and ethical practice of ‘deep ecology’.

The message Lynx is delivering is always best treated with the utmost respect. She offers us an early warning system for upcoming changes, and often these turn out to be radical. If we are alert to her warnings we can take steps that keep us one step ahead, much as animals do when an earthquake is about to arrive – we too can sense intensities, microcosmic disturbances that threaten to manifest challenging changes at a macrocosmic level. With so many rapid and challenging events now occuring in our world across the board her medicine exemplifies the innate qualities and abilities that can help us begin to bring into the world, and through which we can embody, the emergent shamanic paradigm.

The drawing within the image shown here came through after my first encounter with Lynx some years back – I had been in the high mid-Pyrenean Mountains searching out the lessons of the wilds. This area borders the National Park south of the French Spanish border, one of the last remaining natural habitats in which the Iberian Lynx is found within Europe. With her formidable ability to remain unseen, we can never be entirely certain how many of her numbers, if any, remain in the wild in that part of the world. The Iberian Lynx population has been under increasing threat over much of the last century, mostly from disease and hunting, as well as encroaching human settlement and her presence has dwindled to the very brink of extinction – it is thought that at the most only a handful of breeding pairs remain in the wild, in fact, many conservationists believe the only chance for their survival may now rest with those protected within captivity in breeding programmes. Our relationship with the natural world, the fine balance in nature that our own presence can tip so easily one way or another, is exemplified by the delicate care which we must bring to the Iberian Lynx back from the edge and into the wild. We can learn from her how to be wise and sensitive as guardians of Nature.

A friend, whose partner had a shepherds hut up in the high mountains, told me that his mountain dogs often found Lynx spore, but, the presence of his hounds ensured that he himself had never seen one….I was captivated by the thought of this beautiful wild spirit and felt her presence in the forests, everything became infused with hightened sensitivity. I too never saw Lynx in the flesh while in the mountains, but, there was always the feeling of having been seen and since that time she has emerged out of the dreamtime with uncanny timing, especially in advance of threshold moments. She remains an elusive and yet powerful ally whom we can count on to connect us with the unseen when we most need it. If sylvan darkness, the inner light of the forest, be the place of mystery she is one of its prime guardians and gatekeepers. As a wise man once said ‘When life becomes darkest the eye of the soul begins to see’.

Lynx leaves the signs of her elusive presence as magical markers and, in this, she is also a reader and maker of signs, a way shower and pathfinder. Folklore tells us that where she leaves her spore we may find a hidden message. Her urine is said to turn into pearls of  garnet  – her whiskers, antennae of great sensitivity, are woven into medicine hats, attached to wands and fetishes, as a direct link to the subtle energies that ebb and flow around and through us. She connects us with the spirit worlds. She is an edge dweller, her spirit seeing both ways, seated always just beyond our physical sensibilities, but, calling us over into the other worlds. Her initiatic presence brings us to the inner circle of the initiation grounds, the place where we come alive with the life-force and learn of our own soul presence. Here Life, no matter where we are, can assume the shape and form of this sacred space. If we let ourselves be guided by her beyond the known and into this place of deepened learning she can energise and weave together the subtle strands of our souls innate predilictions, the talents and abilities that belong to our hidden gifts, and help us see how we can make of them a braid, our soul path. These are the very gifts that we have come here to remember and bring into the world. And, if we let ourselves be guided by her we also discover that it is those very gifts through which she speaks – hers is a mythical tongue, a language that has its roots in nature. She helps us find answers that are resisitant to the abstract and rational mentality, answers that are living, open ended and magnetic, funded with an electric current of life-force that connects us with all things in the moment. She connects us with the vast mutable everchanging network of life through which all levels and dimensions are simultaneously interrelated. Lynx sacralises our vision and brings enchantment back into a jaded world. When we learn from her how to listen with our inner eyes and discern, the world comes alive with inner meaning…..Lynx is the diviner’s ally par excellence. In a divination kit, a garnet might be the perfect signifier for her presence, symbolising the ‘eye of the soul’…..

It seems that Lynx is bringing new shoots out of the cinders of recent times….events at this end knocked Owlmirror out of action for a whole lunation, but, she did give fair warning! However, I’m happy to say that we are up and running again and Owlmirror is growing and evolving too….over the coming months we will be bringing in articles about working with and making divination kits, so, look out for garnets!

You may also have noticed that there is a new category in the offing here in the sidebar ~ “Natural Medicines” ~ this article opens a new look at the spirit medicines in nature with the animal power of Lynx, and upcoming articles will include old and new stories that will both honour and remember our invaluable and indispensible allies in the realms of Nature, especially as they pop up and help us transit our times of global transformation. Talking of stories, Lynx has a sister ally who figures strongly in both spirit and body in this path, and that is Stryx Occidentalis, the Northern Spotted Owl. You may remember her as the storyteller who brought out the tale of ‘Storyteller and the Spirit Horse’, as well as being enshrined in the ‘Owlwoman’ carving……she too is a symbol for deep ecology, and the protection of the old-growth Redwood forests…..but, we’ll catch some more of her magic next time when we look into the planetary patterns and their messages for the upcoming 10 Million Beats global healing event! In the meantime, Spotted Owl has a story to relate about Lynx and how she came to be the keeper of secrets……

“Now! There are some who believe that Lynx has a bad reputation…heh heh….isn’t that always the way of things when people let their supsicions get the better of them and start throwing their fears around…..look out when that happens, illusion is the name of the game and Mother! Lynx sure has become marked with that kind of nonsense – just like the spotted coat she wears just so, every dark spot is a place where someones pointing finger has burned its accusations into her fur. Well, there you have it, when the fingers are pointing and the tongues are wagging nobody can see whats before their very eyes or hear what the world is saying to them. But, in the old traditions those creatures who are marked with spots are connected with the star nations, the ancestral fires that fund us with the personal powers we keep in our medicine bags – dappling, like starlight and the blue sparks of spirit are a sign of magic….so, put down those fingers, quieten down those wagging tongues and listen up – heres a tale that puts that little conundrum to rights…….

Well….you see….It was once upon a time that was outside of time that everything was frozen and bound in darkness – seems like everything was standing on its head, just when it should have been warm and sunny there was snow and ice laying everywhere and nobody knew where the Summer had gone and, without the Summer, nothing would grow – everyone was starving…….Jeesh! it was madness in the forests, everyone chasing each other around and trying to eat each other, just to stay alive!! Well, there are some creatures more secretive than others and they have a knack of knowing how to survive that crucial little bit longer……some of them are well nigh invisible amongst the leaves and foliage, know how to blend in well, some of them only come out at night, have keen sight and wear a cloak of silence, and then there are others who stay underground, maybe for long time, sleeping and dreaming of better times, who knows….

….one of those dreamers, maybe the best of ‘em all, was Bear, and Bear always hibernated through Winter, as that was her chief dreaming time…..huh, but, there are Winters and there are Winters, and even a Bear must wake up sometime…..

Well, this time it was a long long long Winter, the longest anyone had ever known, and Bear had just about exhausted her supply of Winter fat – she’d run out of dreaming juice! But, nevertheless, old Bear was still asleep, that was, until Cougar, Bull-Moose, Badger, Rabbit, Mouse, Squirrel, and a whole host of animals all came scumbling by, running circles around each other, trying to evade each others teeth or escape from being trampled underfoot….and up in the air was no different. Eagle, Crow, Heron, Hawk, Goose, and a million little birds were all sweeping and swooping around in the dark grey light screeching and hollering for all they were worth, even Owl was running the gauntlet from Blackbird and Woodpecker, hooting loudly……infact, the racket was so loud, it woke up old Bear…and my, she was none to pleased…..waking up real hungry was one thing, but, being woken up by an unholy racket was another thing entirely….up she got and, pulling herself up to her full height, she let out an almighty roar…….”SHUUUUUTTTTTT UUUUUUUPPPP!!!!!!”

….it was one of those moments, when man, you wish you had a picture….heh heh heh

Everyone froze, just like magic, as if they’d been turned to stone, their medicine bags swinging against their hearts….you can see it now! All heads slowly turned in Bear’s direction…..

“Can’t a Bear have a decent sleep without the whole world going CRAZY?!….and WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON HERE??!! MMMMmmmm????”

Down swooped Eagle and landed between the animals and Bear……”well, Bear, its Summer, or rather it should be – it has gone and we are all getting very very hungry, so…..well, were very sorry for waking you up and all that but……we are desperate!”

Bear was a little taken back, not only by the fact that Summer had disappeared, but, that even someone as lofty as Eagle could have descended into this madness….wooooo, it must be BAD!! She thought a little and then a little more….until a flash caught the corner of her eye….even Bear was a little spooked and swivelled on her heels.

There was Lynx, perched on a rock, fixing Bear with that inscrutible flashing stare…….

“Oh, its you Lynx”, said Bear, relaxing, just a little….it was those eyes….

“Yes, and the one thing nobody has bothered to ask is where has Summer gone…mmmm?” said Lynx.

Bear nodded and turned to the animals, who all shrugged their shoulders and began looking to each other for an answer……but, Bear, being full of dreams from the long long Winter, simply said

“Right….this madness has to stop, we’re going to search for Summer right now……Eagle?!”

Eagle knew right away what to do and up he flew, as high as he could above them and slowly circled round surveying the land for miles and miles around……everyone was watching from below holding tight to their medicine bags, until, that is, Bear’s voice broke them out of their trance….

“Well?! What are you lot waiting for, you all know different places to look…..off you go and don’t come back until you’ve found out where Summer has gone!

There was a flurry of fur and claws, and a cloud of snowy fog rose up – when it settled, there was Lynx still perched on her rock watching Bear with that uncanny eye…….

“Perhaps you should ask the Ancestors”, Lynx said, and, at that moment a sudden gust of wind blew by and Lynx dissolved within another cloud of snowy fog leaving only her enigmatic smile – bear watched as even this disappeared, and, when the snow had settled once again, Lynx was gone…

Bear shuddered…..phew! spooky!!

But, Lynx had a point, if anyone would know, the Ancestors up in the star nation would, but, then, did Lynx know something that everyone else didn’t, was she keeping something to her-self – Man, it was hard to trust that one…..nevertheless……

Bear set about putting her den in order and slowly headed down the valley to see if any fish or berries could be found to quell her terrible hunger……and off she set with a grumble and a rumble of her empty stomach…you know how she is!

Well now, time passed and more time passed and eventually Bear came back to her den….and as she came into the clearing she saw Cougar, Badger, Squirrel and Rabbit waiting there…..

“Any news?” asked Bear…..the animals all looked at each other and then Badger spoke up….

“I don’t know where summer has gone”, he said, “but, I did see Lynx heading up to the ridge after I left….and, she wouldn’t say where she was going”

Then Rabbit added, “y-yes, and she came padding by me…silent as a leaf, but, s-she was definitely heading up to the ridge below the p-pass”

Squirrel was next to speak up

“I was heading that way myself across the tree tops and when I got to the ridge there was Lynx heading down the valley on the other side of the pass”

everyone looked at Cougar

….”she’s heading for the mountains,” Cougar said – “she looked like she knew where she was going, so, I followed her, as far as I could….but……I lost her at the foot of the Great Mountain”

“The Great Mountain ehh?” said Bear scratching her chin and looking towards the ridge above – “come on, that Lynx knows something we don’t…..’ask the ancestors’ she said, mmmmmm….”

Suddenly Rabbit looked nervous and started busying herself with her medicine bag……”er, I-I’ve just remembered that I m-must……” and with that she turned on her heal and shot like a bolt into a hole beneath the nearest tree……Bear sighed, “Come on, we’d better get going”

…..and so, off the four of them set, up and over the ridge through the pass, down into the next valley and off into the foothills beneath the mountains, until, they all stood at the foot of the Great Mountain. Foggy clouds swirled around its peak and shrouded it in mystery, sending fingers of mist reaching down through the forest towards them…..

….”she’s up there, I know it,” said Bear gazing into the mists……”well, theres nothing for it,” and off she strode, the three companions following on behind.

Up and up and up they went until the mist started rolling around them…..but, there was no sign of Lynx, not even a paw-print…..but, on they went…..until they broke above the tree line….still no sign of Lynx, so, on they went in the swirling mist……until, Squirrel stopped all of a sudden….

“Listen,” she said, “there, someones snoring”…..

Cougar took a couple of steps forward….”its…coming from up there,” she whispered, and they all went on tipi-toes getting nearer to the snorry sound, with Bear leading the way…

suddenly Bear froze….just ahead she could see a familiar shape, an oval head with two tufted points sprouting from the top….at that moment a flash cut through the mists as an eye opened….and the snorry sound became louder!

“Lynx!” said Bear, and strode forward with the companions close behind……

….there she was curled up on a rock, her uncanny eye fixed on the huddle of animals that were approaching….she yawned and continued her purring…

“well, I’m very glad you could make it,” Lynx said, stretching her back…..that enigmatic smile spreading across her face

Bear looked around, suspiciously…..”so, you didn’t er ‘find’ it…..Summer, that is?”

Lynx’s smile dissolved….”no, but, if we go a little higher”…….

“what was it you said Bear, about Lynx and the Ancest……of course!,” said Squirrel, “we can reach the Ancestors from up there”….and suddenly she was off past Lynx and up towards the top of the mountain

Badger was hard on her tail and suddenly Cougar and Bear were running uphill too…

Lynx watched them and slowly followed…..

….by the time she got to the top of the mountain the four companions were lying on their backs in a circle, looking up at a veiled pool of light above them…….”we found it! I think….,” said Badger, “I can see it through the clouds”…..

Bear sat up – “yes, Badger, but, how are we going to get it back down again?!”

Everyone let out a sigh of disappointment, all except Lynx….

“we can’t stay up here for ever,” said Cougar, “and, besides, theres still nothing to eat”…..they all let out another sigh of dissapointment with this realisation, all except Lynx….

….”we’ll have to light a fire and make the hole bigger,” said Badger – “that will summon a wind and blow these clouds away…”

Suddenly Bear, Cougar and Squirrel were on their feet, running around looking for kindling, but, there was none to be found!

…”what about if we all blow really hard,” said Squirrel, and suddenly everyone was huffing and puffing into the air, all except Lynx….

The four collapsed exhausted – they had made no impression on the clouds…..

“I know how to do it”…said Lynx

The four animals looked at her expectantly….

Lynx lifted a paw and pointed upwards – “you’ll have to jump up and make a hole”

That was it! Suddenly everyone, except Lynx, was jumping up on the spot as high as they could, but, to no avail!

“Me, me!” shouted Squirrel suddenly – “throw me up there, I can make a hole!”

“Ok,” said Bear, “but, its futher than it looks, take off your medicine bag so that you are lighter, and we’ll throw you up….and so Squirrel did, and they did throw her up into the clouds, only, Squirrel was too small to make a hole that stayed open and whats more, she didn’t come down again!

“mmmm,” said Bear, “you’re bigger Badger, lets throw you up”….so, Badger took off his medicine bag and up he went, but, the hole closed over again, and Badger didn’t come down either!

Cougar looked at Bear, “I can do it I’m sure,” she, said, so off came the medicine bag and up went Cougar – the hole was bigger for sure and for a fleeting glimpse Bear thought she could see Squirrel and Badger peering out of the sky…but, the hole close up again!

“well, theres nothing for it” said Bear, “you’ll have to go next Lynx,” but, when she turned around Lynx was nowhere to be seen….

Bear was disconsolate, until she heard voices above her…

“its here, its here, weve found Summer”……it was Squirrel, Badger and Cougar……if we reach down and you jump up we’ll catch you and pull you up!

Bear thought for a moment, and then another moment, but, their seemed to be nothing else to do, so, taking off her medicine bag and putting it on the ground, Bear took two steps back and….

“OOOOAAAAAOOOOOWWW”…….Suddenly there was a piercing screech and a pair of needle encrusted paws pinned themselves to Bear’s behind…..

”YYYEEEEEAAAOOOOWWWWW!!!” Bear yelped and jumped high into the air….through the clouds she disappeared, as Lynx sat on the ground holding her tail…..

Bear had stepped back and trodden on Lynx’s tail, and she was so heavy, she had broken off a piece, which Lynx was now looking at forelornly on the ground……thats why the poor old Lynx has a short tail…but, then….

…..like magic, everything started to glow with a radiant light and the fog started clearing….Lynx looked up to see a huge hole now opening up in the clouds above and the sunlight was streaming through. Everything started to become warmer, and Lynx was a little happier with this….but, where were the four companions?

Lynx waited and waited but, no-one came back down and eventually the whole sky cleared….and night began to fall….Lynx sat and looked into the night sky until the stars came out, shimmering and dancing above……Lynx knew what to do and, picking up the four medicine bags and stringing them next to her own against her heart, she headed back down the mountain.

By the time Lynx reached the clearing where Bear’s den was it was pitch dark with dappled starlight sparkling in the forest, but, she of all creatures, with perhaps the exception of Owl, was best equipped to find her way….she had decided on the way back to bring the medicine bags of each of the four companions to the place where they each had their homes and so, she stealthily crept into Bear’s den….and stopped in her tracks!

There, curled up in a mound of leaves at the back of the cave was Bear, sleeping like a baby! Lynx gently layed Bear’s medicine bag at her side and crept out…….she found all the other animals too, all fast asleep in their beds, and returned their medicine bags to each…..

When they woke up just before dawn the next morning, Bear, Cougar, Badger and Squirrel all met in the clearing – they were all exited and wanted to share their dreams…..they were amazed to discover that they had all dreamt the same thing, about losing Summer, about Lynx and the Ancestors and jumping up from the top of the Great Mountain to make a hole in the sky….but, none of them could remember what happened after that….maybe Lynx would be able to tell them, but, could they find her!?

….maybe she found out what they all have in their medicine bags……..but, she’s keeping that very close to her heart…….heh heh heh……..after all, when we see with the eyes of the heart, we touch all the world with a deeper knowing…….”

 

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