The Stable Girl

There once was a young girl who grew up in a stable loft.

There once was a young girl who grew up in a stable loft. This was through no fault of her own. Her parents had slipped away as she slept one night. They had been neglectful parents on the best of days, barely ever speaking to her—or to each other—and doing little to keep her alive. They had all gone to sleep in the loft as the three of them wandered from farm to farm, keeping out of sight and feeding off the labors of others. She did not miss them when she realized she was alone. She stayed hidden during the day, sleeping under the hay piles to hide. She slipped out at night to rummage in the farmer’s fields and the waste pile the farmer kept at the edge of his property. Her rummaging kept her fed with scraps from the farmer’s table but also with grain, vegetables, fruit the farmer grew and sold at market. She clothed herself in an odd assortment of garments the farmer, his wife, and two children discarded. For a week, she would wear his old underwear as a dress (he was a big man) and then switch to a nightgown his wife had worn sheer over the past decade. She wore shoes that were too big for her, trousers that were too short, and hats that were sometimes too big and sometimes too small but she kept warm enough through the winter and shed layers when the summer came.

She managed to eat well enough and grew into an adolescent girl, although one with tangled hair interspersed with hay and without the courtly charms expected of one her age. She was not exceptionally beautiful or terribly plain but she was almost always painted with the colors of her loft and the fields she plied for food so it was difficult to tell where her nest or the fields ended and the girl began.

Her only conversations were with the creatures who lived in the barn beneath her nest in the hay. She spent her nights listening to the cows and horses snort and whinny. She would visit with the bunnies and moles who prowled the fields at night under the varying gaze of the moon. She learned bits of their languages too and found that they knew much about the best vegetables and fruits to choose and when they were best eaten. She spent her days fending off the mice and squirrels who would rummage around her looking for morsels she left unfinished or that she found unappealing. But she also learned their languages of squeaks and chirps.

She liked all the vegetables the farmer grew (well, except for the Brussel sprouts) but she was fondest of the melons he tended. He grew honeydew and cantaloupe and casaba and watermelons, all tucked within their tendrils and leaves, each with their distinct flavor, firm outer skin, tender flesh, and plentiful seeds. She would cut them open with a broken knife she had found in the waste pile and pry the flesh from the rind with impatient gouges, seeds and all. As she chewed through the flesh, she would find the seeds with her tongue and spit them out where she found them, along the rows where the delicious fruits grew. She was sure this would puzzle the farmer—all the new seeds falling among the maturing vines and spawning new fruit—and she snorted and whinnied a bit in delight at his imagined confusion. She did not care, though. She was face-deep in a melon or two and enjoying herself too much to bother.

One night, she was engaged in a conversation with a large green melon with white stripes and dark brown seeds and a weasel wriggled up the row from its forest home.

“Hello,” said the weasel, or so she imagined he said as she had yet to learn the proper tongue of these creatures.

“Hello,” she said back in her best squirrel. Weasels do not speak squirrel but they understand it as well as their mother tongue.

“I am your fairy spirit and have a tip for you,” said the weasel. As he said this, the girl saw a luminescence to his fur she had not noticed before. She had no reason not to accept this announcement so she did.

“What does that mean?” she asked.

“It means I am here to guide you through your young life and make sure you continue to mature.”

“I’ve done well enough, thank you,” said the girl in a kind and courteous way the weasel understood.

“Yes, you have. You have done remarkably well keeping yourself fed and clothed and hidden from sight. There is nothing I would say or do to change any bit of what you have done and you are a fine young person. I do have a tiny tip for you that may help you out a bit.”

“Well, thank you, weasel. As you are so kind, I cannot help but consider your words, whatever they may be.”

“Okay. And thank you. You are as accepting as I hoped you would be. I have noticed you love the melons more than other fruit or vegetables in the field. They hold a key to your future. I have also seen you spit out all the seeds amongst the fruit you leave for the farmer’s family. That is considerate to him and helps keep you hidden in his loft.”

“Thank you,” said the girl, a little proud of herself and amazed that he was continuing to be so nice.

“I want you to remember what I am about to tell you. Some night as you are out among the melons, some night as you are cutting through their skin, enjoying their flesh, and turning the seeds about in your mouth, you will find a seed that is rounder than the others, sweet on your tongue, and smoother than any other seed you have found. When you find that seed, swallow it instead of spitting it out.”

The weasel looked up at the girl sitting cross-legged in the rows of melons. “Had she understood?” he wondered. “Would she remember to do as I’ve said?” he wondered.

“Okay. I will remember your advice and do as you have suggested” said the girl, puzzled but trusting the weasel as he was as pleasant as any friend she had ever met.

“Good, but that’s not all,” said the weasel. “When you swallow the seed, you must move from your loft and from this farm and go north through the forest until you reach a clearing. The clearing will glow in the moonlight and there will be a single squirrel sitting on a large stone, a stone as big as your loft is high, at the edge of the clearing. When you reach this place, lean back against the stone and go to sleep.”

“Abandon my loft and my friends and my melon patch?” said the girl, a little frightened and sad at hearing these words.

“Yes,” said the weasel. “Trust what I have said as I am your fairy spirit and I can only give advice when it is earned by a promising young person who will benefit from my words.”

“Okay,” said the girl. “I am worried and saddened by your words but I will do as you say. Do you know when this will all happen?”

“The night when the full moon starts to wane,” said the weasel, wriggling his nose and whiskers, as he had just smelled a turnip nearby that had just turned ripe.

“I understand,” said the girl.

“Goodbye, young lady. I will visit you when all of this has come to pass” said the weasel. He turned and wriggled off in the direction of the turnip. All of this talking and advising had made him hungry.

“Goodbye weasel,” said the girl.

The days passed as she slept and the nights were occupied by foraging in the waste pile and choosing among the vegetables and melons so that she would continue to prosper. She paid close attention to the melon seeds and found none that had met the weasel’s description. This was as it should be. The full moon was days away and each melon was delicious, so she spat the seeds as she sat amongst them eating their flesh and enjoying the company of the night breezes and roaming creatures just out of sight.

Finally, the full moon came out one night and she knew that her next evening would be as special as any she had known before. After a night of delicious melons and lovely carrots, she retired for the day, burrowing into the hay, and sleeping a deep sleep without dreams.

The next night came and she found a melon that looked particularly delicious. She sliced it open as usual and started consuming the flesh and turning the seeds about in her mouth. Everything was as usual and she spat the seeds out in streams. None of them met the description the weasel had provided.

Then she found the one seed that was rounder, smoother, and sweeter than any other seeds she had ever felt with her tongue. She gave it one last touch and then, closing her eyes, she swallowed it.

When she did, a path lit up amongst the rows of melons and vegetables. The path led directly to the edge of the field and into the forest that surrounded it, her loft, and her farmer’s home. She started briskly down the way that was illuminated by some unknown magic foreseen by her fairy spirit and into the dark woods. She could see the moon, one night off its full beauty, through the branches far above and it helped light her path, although in truth the path stayed lit as the forest around her darkened.

She walked for a long time and the night came closer and closer to ending when she found a clearing at the end of her path, lit with the moonlight from above but also with a strange white light from the ground beneath her feet. At the edge of the clearing sat a large stone—easily as tall as her loft had been and a little bigger than she had imagined. On the top of the stone sat a single squirrel, a nut between its tiny paws, its teeth chipping away at the husk and tunneling into the delicious flesh within.

“Hello young lady,” said the squirrel, for the girl knew his language quite well.

“Hello squirrel,. How are you this pleasant evening?”

“I am well and doing what we squirrels love most. I see you have come as your friend the weasel had advised. That is a wise thing to do as he is the wisest weasel any of us know.”

“I am happy to hear that, squirrel. As you might imagine, it is quite something to follow the advice of a new friend and come so far into a dark forest after swallowing a melon seed, several things I have never done before.”

“I understand but you have done well. Now, I believe he recommended that you sleep” said the squirrel.

“Indeed he did. I shall do as he asked.”

The girl sat down and rested her back against the large stone. Strangely, while most stones are as cold as the earth from which they draw their breath, this one was quite warm, nearly as warm as she was herself. She wriggled a little as she cozied up to it and promptly fell into a deep sleep, dreamless as the previous night had been.

When she woke, it was daytime. This was odd all by itself as she always woke as night came and it was time for her to forage. But this day was quite different from all other days. The light was suffused with a light green tinge and she was surrounded by what felt and seemed like the flesh of a melon.

“How has this come to be?” wondered the girl. She did not really know what had happened but she thought she knew what to do next.

She opened her mouth and took a bite of the flesh that held her firm in its moist grasp. It was delicious, better than any melon had ever been before. She took another, then another, until she had made a large oval room for herself, a room with an arching ceiling brimming with light from the sun outside, just the right temperature for a room to be.

She walked to one end of the large, oval room and knocked on the interior wall of the melon in which she had found herself and which had fed her.

Knock-knock-knock.

The wall of the melon fell open to the outside and presented her with a pleasant ramp on which to descend to the clearing she had found lit by the waning moon. She left the melon and looked around. On the large stone sat the squirrel she had spoken to the previous night.

“Hello young lady,” said the squirrel. “How was your sleep?”

“It was quite peaceful, thank you,” said the girl. “Tell me, how is it that I awoke inside this large melon and had to eat my way clear of it and knock on its wall?”

“You have been asleep for some time, dear lady. Many nights and days. All I can say is that as you slept, this melon appeared from your belly and grew large and full around you until I could no longer see you asleep against the stone. The melon grew and grew and is as you see it before you. And just now, you popped out one end. I do not know what else to tell you.”

“Well, that is helpful, squirrel. Weasel said he would be along to see me and I trust that he will.”

“Yes, I would as well. He is a very wise weasel and we all trust him quite completely.”

“That is good to know but of course you have already said as much. Before I slept, that is” said the girl. “Do you have any ideas about what I should do now?”

“If I were you, I would make myself at home. It looks quite nice from outside and I’m sure it is just as nice within.”

“Good idea!” said the girl and went back inside.

She was surprised to find that the floor of the melon had hardened into a firm, flat surface and that a table with two chairs sat in the middle of the room with two plates and two mugs at each of the two seats. The plates sat on lace mats and had a complement of implements arranged quite properly around them. A plump, light green melon sat in the middle of the table with a spoon nested firmly in its flesh. She walked over, sat down, and scooped out a plateful of this nice young melon. It was delicious and she devoured every bite as if she had never had a melon in her life, not even the one she had burrowed out of a bit earlier that day.

Soon, the weasel came to visit. He sat down in the other chair and gave her a smile.

“I see you have done as I advised, young lady,” said the weasel in his kind, wise voice.

“Yes. I did just as you suggested, although I had no idea what would come of it all. This is a wonderful room and I like my furniture so much. I’ve never had any, you know.”

“I know,” said the weasel. “But you’ve always been a very good girl and we have all noticed that you treat the fields well and all of your animal friends like your family. We all thought you could do with a house of your own instead of a pile of hay. Look over there” said the weasel, pointing into a corner of the large room. A fluffy cotton mattress sat in a bedstead and two fluffy pillows sat against the headboard. A thick comforter lay across the bed and was tucked neatly in at the foot of the bed.

“Oh! Where did that come from?” said the girl.

“From a life of goodness and nights of untroubled dreams,” said the weasel.

“Thank you, weasel! I have no idea why you have been so kind to me but thank you so much!” said the girl.

“You have done this all on your own, dear girl. I was just the messenger who told you about the seed and the clearing. You did all else that was to be done!” said the weasel, smiling in his tender way.

“What do I do now?” said the girl.

“Every day, you can do as you please, of course. There will always be a fresh melon on your table when you want it. There will always be vegetables available in the clearing outdoors. You will always have visits from your friends, the animals. Your life will be full and happy and you will never again worry about how you’re going to eat, whether you will be found, or what will happen next.”

“Thank you, weasel. Will you stay here with me?” asked the girl.

“I will visit and you will have many visitors but this is all for you alone so that you may live a full life without worry or sorrow,” said the weasel. “It is not so different from your previous life but I believe you will enjoy it more.”

“I am sure I will. I will never be able to thank you enough, weasel. I have an extra hat. Would you like this one?” asked the girl.

“Why, yes. That would be very nice. I’ve always liked that hat,” said the weasel as he took it from her outstretched hands and placed it on his pointy little head. “It fits perfectly, too!” said the weasel. “Goodbye for now. I’m sure I will visit so we can have our chats.”

“Goodbye, weasel!” said the girl. “I will look forward to our next visit!”

And with that, the weasel jumped out of the chair onto all fours and scurried away in search of a turnip, for they were as delicious as melons were to the girl.

Transformation

Featured image

Distant Freedom

She was just a girl,…

She was just a girl,
just like any other
but in the second class
of the day—English—
we sat at the back wall
in a room like many others,
desks pulled together,
whispering with the
whole class hearing
what we said or
how we said
whatever it was
we deemed so central
to our learning.

“We can hear everything,
young man” said our teacher,
and that stopped us
for the second it took
to realize our volume
needed adjustment
but our focus was just
where it belonged,
learning from each other
what it meant to be young
and yearning to be free
in a world that would not
allow it to be.

Waiting

Featured Image: Empty Classroom (Max Klingensmith, 2008, some rights reserved)

Twilight

The crowd hadn’t been quiet all morning.

The crowd hadn’t been quiet all morning. Forty or fifty full-grown men shouting like had all just received a lifetime of wages or witnessed the Ascension. Men standing shaking their fists, sweating sweat, raising their voices in praise of the latest demagogue cajoling their time and attention. Promising promises so they could hope for hope. Like all other gods this one would deliver fields of smut-eared corn and paralyzed children, men bitterly drunk and women murmuring the rosary until the could say the stations by touching the intaglio impressed in their palms.

This crowd driven by this demagogue had kept Jascinto awake in his sweltering bed through the day until the two o’clock sun burrowed into his forehead, driving the water out through his skin, out into his sheets and into the heat of his dark room. The heat became as hot as it ever had been.

The crowd quieted.

Jascinto sunk into the torpor of the heat, the moldiness of his wet sheets and feel asleep.



The crowd started in again in the late afternoon when the sunlight streamed across rooftops and in through the Venetian blinds. Jascinto woke slowly as he had when he was young and reluctant to work in the fields. He rubbed his eyes with one old and scrawny hand, more like the foot of a perching bird, and pulled himself up.

The dresser top in this one room he rented was littered with the outdated tools he had once used with complete belief in their truth and necessity. A comb to make him look good was now filled with gray hairs and a paste of scalp cells and hair oil. Coins to pass among the merchants so they would think him prosperous though they all knew he was not. A rosary, that most intricate and repetitious of jokes. A shrine to the Lord Jesus. The tiny painting in a gilt-edged frame had cost one-fourth his weekly wages for four weeks, required a special trip to the votaries’ store. The oil votive candle half that much again. He had once hoped that this was a small sacrifice for eternal grace. He had heard that God came closer to you when your flesh became thin and your veins throbbing blue ribbons standing away from your bones. But God had receded instead and this candle, this picture, which had reduced his meals to beans and rice for almost two months, were no more than a shrine to the naive of the world, all those who hoped for hope but died and rotted like the rest.

Jascinto gently grasped the image of Christ and placed it face down on the candle, watching the flame gutter and die.

The crowd made more noise than ever before. Jascinto pulled on his socks, remembering the dust and rocks his feet had shuffled through, pulled pants over joints that had straightened and bent day after day, threaded one arm and the other through his yellowing church shirt, worn once like a mantle of sanctity and now like a shroud, tied his tie, too tight, and crept into the old suit coat, now as threadbare as himself.

Off the end of the bed were his wing-tipped shoes, bought when purity had ceased to matter as much as comfort. For half his life, sandals had guarded him against the sharp stones and invisible worms of the countryside.  As he had grown old and away from the church, the desire became greater to own a pair of these shiny shoes to hide his knotted and splayed feet. More time was spent polishing them at the end of a day and less time with the rosary until the only rosary voiced was a soft and wordless song as the buffing cloth extracted from the black leather a deep and vitreous glow.

Jascinto closed the door to his room and stood a moment at the top of the stairs. New anger swept through him as the crowd became louder, their one voice no longer deadened by the room’s insulation, slight though it was. Slowly he moved down towards the faint light falling in from the street. At the bottom of the stair, he sat looking into the crowd and across the courtyard at the brightly dressed man smiling and waving at the men, pacing with a pleased expression clipped on his face. The men pumped their clenched fists into the thinning heat of twilight, shouting against the facing courtyard wall, shouting the slogans of the man in the bright clothes.

Jascinto straightened himself up and walked from the rooming house into the crowd, drew the gun he always carried in his left coat pocket, braced, and fired. The politician reeled back against the wall, his arms flailing for balance, his chest showing first a clean hole, then a spreading stain that flecked his coat and the stage upon which he stood. As he fell, he slowly changed shape, first a dog-headed man with wings, then a bull with arms and a lion’s tail, on through a bestiary of awful creatures and hideous men, until Jascinto began to recognize the brutal gods of human history—Borgias, Richelieu, de Medicis, Robespierre, Saint-Just, Cortés, Pizarro—all reared their ugly heads and sunk again into a vortex of other gods from other worlds, some leaders of his own country condemned by history and perspective for their guileful cruelty. Suddenly, the surface of this soup of political faces froze into a many-headed entity, a representation of all that had been inflicted on the poor in their hopes for a better life. As this lost shape, such as it was, a pair of wild and loathsome eyes leered bloodshot and mad out of the fetid stew and became a dark, bloody puddle on the simple stage.

Jascinto dropped his gun to the pavement and walked back to his room.



Jascinto woke in a sweat to the sound of a chanting crowd. Though he didn’t know the figure pictured on his dressed, it burst into flame.



Jascinto awoke in terror. A crowd chanted. the mysterious figure pictured on his dresser stared into him, the wild eyes drawing closer to his barren soul.





Directly inspired by the parable Ragnarok by the Argentinian genius Jorge Luis Borges. No characters in this expansion are intended to represent anything other than an unfortunate dynamic between those who sow hope and those who reap their tears.

©1983, me, all rights reserved
Urgent

Featured image

Solitary Minds

A crisp automatic fire…

A crisp automatic fire,
the quick wick smell of metals stressed by heat,
click on, click off,
the persistent smell of
lighter fluid, fuel oil, natural gas, silver polish,
some meant to burn, some meant to gleam.

Nocturnal breathing, stifled breath,
stopping at each scent,
lingering quotes on a random night
dreaming for sleep and silent dreams.

Light paper leaves turned in tinctured fingers,
a lighter flashed alive, solvent smell,
acrid smoke, twitching noses,
withered smoke, a choking cough.

Sweat-stained khaki gloves, knitted fingers spread,
a tam o’ shanter, brown, lopsided, a bulging crown,
too new to throw away, too old to save,
the chain-link leash, a tooth-marked leather loop,
past and future teeth begging the mistress
to come out for a walk and again for another.

A deep oak sea of grain,
whorls still and shifting,
captured in an oval dining room,
four chairs, four arms, four cushions,
two young, two old, too strained, too trapped,
amber would capture the motion in this room,
sticky, hot, frozen, lucent,
cracks and clotted spots obscuring the view.

Two polished silver trivets, one with a missing screw,
one with a blemish that will not polish out,
one with a bowl of rice,
one with a gravy boat, the brown drowning
in the boat, pulling it to the bottom of the night.

A cat curled in muslin sleep,
mocha light shines from her calico back.
Earlier, she crept toward conflict, bristling danger,
a bird perched outside didn’t know the death coil
fixing it from the window sill, a serpent’s slitted eyes.

Eyes do not exist now, fur lies still, flies not;
windows watch when the light pours through
and change the shapes as night comes,
the cat moves through, a dark soundless slink
to check for mice and other scuttling sounds.

White light, afternoon sun killing shadows on the run,
mote lines contrasting with the shaded shapes
an oak cupboard, sideboard, chest.
A Spanish queen portrayed, stiffened in canvas,
cracks cluttering her face, once a beauty,
now another lost note to a history no one knows.

A large copper boiling pot with a handle
ready for the fireplace from a distant time,
once stocked with turnips and broth,
carrots and thyme, cabbages and cloves,
no contents now but a crust not cleaned,
a cauldron for a manor house.
No longer. Never again.

An oval control where circles cannot go,
a circle confines where lines are all that holds,
the oak is oval, breaking twice at the gate-leg,
leaves in place, falling to rest in gravity’s embrace.
The brown table, centered, bright and old
in light and dark, supplies a place where spirits
draw near, each to each, an oval coaxing pulses
to pump as one, a space with four distinct fates,
four hearts alive until they pump no more.

Subdued

Origins of the Human Mythos

There are as many origin stories as there are early regions on earth.

There are as many origin stories as there are early regions on earth. They all describe processes that resulted in one version of life or another.

Here’s one from the Bakuba people who flourished in the southeastern part of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

“Darkness was over the earth which was nothing but water. Mbombo ruled over this chaos. One day he felt a terrible pain in his stomach and vomited the sun, the moon and the stars. The sun shone fiercely and the water steamed up in clouds. Gradually, the dry hills appeared. Mbombo vomited again, this time trees came out of his stomach, and animals, and people, and many other things: the first woman, the leopard, the eagle, the falling star, the anvil, the monkey Fumu, the man, the firmament, the razor, medicine, and lightning.” –Knappert, J. (1977). Bantu myths and other tales. Leiden: Brill.

In this version, Mbombo had a dark earth covered in water to work with and it was the rest of the universe that he (it’s a “he”) brought into being. Whether they were all causing a pain in his stomach (why wouldn’t they?) or whether vomiting was just what one did during the process of creation is not clear. This single act of emesis wasn’t sufficient, so the rest of his stomach’s contents populated the now-illuminated mix of dry hills and water that composed the planet. He also had an anvil, a razor, lightning, a meteor/comet, the discipline of medicine, woman (apparently emitted first), a few animals, and man causing his distress. The myth goes on; you can read it, along with some other myths of Africa at the link.

 

brooklyn_museum_22-1582_mwaash_ambooy_mask
Mask of the Bakuba people used in religious rituals to represent their earliest ancestors

 

The Bushmen or San people of southern and southwest Africa have a different view of how it all began. Here’s a nice video that shares one version of the story (virtually any of these differ in some details as they were all told to a western ethnologist by whoever was willing to share):

It is interesting that people and animals were all present but living in a paradise beneath the earth. The creation involved growing a tree, digging a hole to let all of them out, and warning them not to play with fire. Their punishment was that they no longer were able to communicate with their previous under-earth cohabitants. I am certain that if Prometheus heard this story he would beg Zeus for relitigation of his case.

Ethiopians, in the central eastern section of Africa, had a different take on how it all began:

It seems that Wak was a caretaker god for the skies and earth but was not an angry god (a cool feature for a god to have). We get a foreshadowing of the “rib of Adam” bit, although there was no clay involved and animals and demons were all progeny of the first marriage.

The oldest creation myth from the Rg Veda, one of the four scriptures on which Hinduism is based, is complex:

“Thousand-headed Purusha, thousand-eyed, thousand-footed he, having pervaded the earth on all sides, still extends ten fingers beyond it. Purusha alone is all this—whatever has been and whatever is going to be. Further, he is the lord of immortality and also of what grows on account of food. Such is his greatness; greater, indeed, than this is Purusha. All creatures constitute but one quarter of him, his three-quarters are the immortal in the heaven. With his three-quarters did Purusha rise up; one quarter of him again remains here. With it did he variously spread out on all sides over what eats and what eats not. From him was Viraj born, from Viraj evolved Purusha. He, being born, projected himself behind the earth as also before it.
When the gods performed the sacrifice with Purusha as the oblation, then the spring was its clarified butter, the summer the sacrificial fuel, and the autumn the oblation.
The sacrificial victim, namely, Purusha, born at the very beginning, they sprinkled with sacred water upon the sacrificial grass. With him as oblation the gods performed the sacrifice, and also the Sadhyas [a class of semidivine beings] and the rishis [ancient seers]. From that wholly offered sacrificial oblation were born the verses and the sacred chants; from it were born the meters; the sacrificial formula was born from it. From it horses were born and also those animals who have double rows [i.e., upper and lower] of teeth; cows were born from it, from it were born goats and sheep. When they divided Purusha, in how many different portions did they arrange him? What became of his mouth, what of his two arms? What were his two thighs and his two feet called? His mouth became the brahman; his two arms were made into the rajanya; his two thighs the vaishyas; from his two feet the shudra was born. The moon was born from the mind, from the eye the sun was born; from the mouth Indra and Agni, from the breath the wind was born. From the navel was the atmosphere created, from the head the heaven issued forth; from the two feet was born the earth and the quarters [the cardinal directions] from the ear. Thus did they fashion the worlds. Seven were the enclosing sticks in this sacrifice, thrice seven were the fire-sticks made, when the gods, performing the sacrifice, bound down Purusha, the sacrificial victim. With this sacrificial oblation did the gods offer the sacrifice. These were the first norms [dharma] of sacrifice. These greatnesses reached to the sky wherein live the ancient Sadhyas and gods.” – The Rig-Veda, 10.90, in Sources of Indian Tradition by Theodore de Bary (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), pp. 16-17.

This is an entirely different level of complexity than we see in the above myths or in the one most westerners know. One observation is to notice that Purusha is both the everything and is offered as a sacrifice and is born of Viraj, who was (of course) born of Purusha. To make it even more complicated, another version of this occurs in Manusmriti, another scriptural text of many but this one designating Hindu law. In this version, Purusha creates time and also designates the duties of the various castes.

(n.b. Purusha is the Featured image for this post.)

From southern China, the story went like this:

“In the beginning , the heavens and earth were still one and all was chaos. The universe was like a big black egg, carrying Pan Gu inside itself. After 18 thousand years Pan Gu woke from a long sleep. He felt suffocated, so he took up a broadax and wielded it with all his might to crack open the egg. The light, clear part of it floated up and formed the heavens, the cold, turbid matter stayed below to form earth. Pan Gu stood in the middle, his head touching the sky, his feet planted on the earth. The heavens and the earth began to grow at a rate of ten feet per day, and Pan Gu grew along with them. After another 18 thousand years, the sky was higher, the earth thicker, and Pan Gu stood between them like a pillar 9 million li in height so that they would never join again.

“When Pan Gu died, his breath became the wind and clouds, his voice the rolling thunder. One eye became the sun and on the moon. His body and limbs turned to five big mountains and his blood formed the roaring water. His veins became far-stretching roads and his muscles fertile land. The innumerable stars in the sky came from his hair and beard, and flowers and trees from his skin and the fine hairs on his body. His marrow turned to jade and pearls. His sweat flowed like the good rain and sweet dew that nurtured all things on earth. According to some versions of the Pan Gu legend, his tears flowed to make rivers and radiance of his eyes turned into thunder and lighting. When he was happy the sun shone, but when he was angry black clouds gathered in the sky. One version of the legend has it that the fleas and lice on his body became the ancestors of mankind.

“The Pan Gu story has become firmly fixed in Chinese tradition. There is even an idiom relating to it: “Since Pan Gu created earth and the heavens,” meaning “for a very long time.” Nevertheless, it is rather a latecomer to the catalog of Chinese legends. First mention of it is in a book on Chinese myths written by Xu Zheng in the Three Kingdoms period (C.E. 220-265). Some opinions hold that it originated in south China or southeast Asia.

“There are several versions of the Pan Gu story.

“Among the Miao, Yao, Li and other nationalities of south China, a legend concerns Pan Gu the ancestor of all mankind, with a man’s body and a dog’s head. It runs like this: Up in Heaven the God in charge of the earth, King Gao Xin, owned a beautiful spotted dog. He reared him on a plate (pan in Chinese ) inside a gourd (hu, which is close to the sound gu ), so the dog was known as Pan Gu . Among the Gods there was great enmity between King Gao Xin and his rival King Fang. “Whoever can bring me the head of King Fang may marry my daughter, ” he proclaimed, but nobody was willing to try because they were afraid of King Fang’s strong soldiers and sturdy horses.

“The dog Pan Gu overheard what was said, and when Gao Xin was sleeping, slipped out of the palace and ran to King Fang. The latter was glad to see him standing there wagging his tail. “You see, King Gao Xin is near his end. Even his dog has left him,” Fang said, and held a banquet for the occasion with the dog at his side.

“At midnight when all was quiet and Fang was overcome with drink, Pan Gu jumped onto the king’s bed, bit off his head and ran back to his master with it . King Gao Xin was overjoyed to see the head of his rival, and gave orders to bring Pan Gu some fresh meat. But Pan Gu left the meat untouched and curled himself up in a corner to sleep. For three days he ate nothing and did not stir.

“The king was puzzled and asked, “Why don’t you eat? Is it because I failed to keep my promise of marrying a dog?” To his surprise Pan Gu began to speak. “Don’t worry, my King. Just cover me with your golden bell and in seven days and seven nights I’ll become a man.” The King did as he said, but on the sixth day, fearing he would starve to death, out of solicitude the princess peeped under the bell. Pan Gu’s body had already changed into that of a man, but his head was still that of a dog. However, once the bell was raised, the magic change stopped, and he had to remain a man with a dog’s head.

“He married the princess, but she didn’t want to be seen with such a man so they moved to the earth and settled in the remote mountains of south China. There they lived happily and had four children, three boys and a girl, who became the ancestors of mankind.” – China Creation Myths

We are the descendants of a dog-headed god who was also the source of heavens and earth… well, after he broke open the black egg with a broadax. The dog-headed bit explains a lot but why did the princess marry him? That remains a mystery to this day, dear readers.pangu

 

Pangu (Attribution)

 

Here’s a story from the Lakota Native Americans:

“There was another world before this one. But the people of that world did not behave themselves. Displeased, the Creating Power set out to make a new world. He sang several songs to bring rain, which poured stronger with each song. As he sang the fourth song, the earth split apart and water gushed up through the many cracks, causing a flood. By the time the rain stopped, all of the people and nearly all of the animals had drowned. Only Kangi the crow survived.

“Kangi pleaded with the Creating Power to make him a new place to rest. So the Creating Power decided the time had come to make his new world. From his huge pipe bag, which contained all types of animals and birds, the Creating Power selected four animals known for their ability to remain under water for a long time.

“He sent each in turn to retrieve a lump of mud from beneath the floodwaters. First the loon dove deep into the dark waters, but it was unable to reach the bottom. The otter, even with its strong webbed feet, also failed. Next, the beaver used its large flat tail to propel itself deep under the water, but it too brought nothing back. Finally, the Creating Power took the turtle from his pipe bag and urged it to bring back some mud.

“Turtle stayed under the water for so long that everyone was sure it had drowned. Then, with a splash, the turtle broke the water’s surface! Mud filled its feet and claws and the cracks between its upper and lower shells. Singing, the Creating Power shaped the mud in his hands and spread it on the water, where it was just big enough for himself and the crow. He then shook two long eagle wing feathers over the mud until earth spread wide and varied, overcoming the waters. Feeling sadness for the dry land, the Creating Power cried tears that became oceans, streams, and lakes. He named the new land Turtle Continent in honor of the turtle who provided the mud from which it was formed.

“The Creating Power then took many animals and birds from his great pipe bag and spread them across the earth. From red, white, black, and yellow earth, he made men and women. The Creating Power gave the people his sacred pipe and told them to live by it. He warned them about the fate of the people who came before them. He promised all would be well if all living things learned to live in harmony.

“But the world would be destroyed again if they made it bad and ugly.” – Lakota Creation Myth

In this one, we have a cataclysmic flood that kills the initial people and destroys nearly all animals but is replaced by people made of mud brought to the water’s surface by a turtle.

There’s no need to go into the western version and it is beyond the scope of any decent post to provide every story that I’ve found in doing this research on the web. You can do the same, of course, provided you have the curiosity. It is rewarding to read as many of these stories as you can, particularly if it results in some humility in the face of all the imaginative metaphors for creation that coexist with the western versions, evolving out of the Middle East as they did (hint: there are more than one version of how creation occurred). There are many shared elements in the stories but there are many elements that are unique to their cultures.

Why should we put aside some of these stories and glorify others? I would propose that is nothing more than western cultural chauvinism to do so. We celebrate what we know and denigrate that which we do not.

So let’s not do that so much. If you’re interested in learning about humankind, learn as much as you can about the huge number of disparate cultures that have evolved and don’t marginalize one or another because their source was “primitive” or not in “The Bible.” We were all primitive once. Our antecedents share that. As should we.

I think I’ll stick with more modern versions…

 

ilc_9yr_moll4096
Attribution

 

Original

 

Something is Going Well Around Here!

The 1,000 “like” road marker disappearing in the rear view mirror…

The WP auto-post function just told me that I have accumulated 1,000 “likes,” which are all because the imaginary “you” have been appreciating what I’ve been pouring forth since June 22nd. It hasn’t been four months yet and I have so many “likes!” Who knew?!?

I’ve logged 87 posts (one was a repeat, so doesn’t really count and one was a reblog in respect for a new WordPress-induced friend) in 111 days, meaning that I’ve hit about 78% of the days between start and present. Not bad. Could be better. Let’s see if I can pick up the slack.

Thank you, everyone!

MSOC

Waiting…

There’s an unnatural quiet transfixing the house.

There’s an unnatural quiet transfixing the house.

The two kids, fourteen and eleven, sit on the edges of their beds, one facing the back of the other, both staring beyond the door leading out, both seeing nothing but their own separate thoughts.

The air in the room is lit with a million motes illuminated by the sun falling towards the horizon, half-blocked by palmettos and live oaks, by a wisteria vine that has sunk its predatory tendrils into the earth a hundred times, always grasping for more, more, always rising again with indisputably beautiful flowers to distract from the business it has with the earth’s nutrients, it’s vendetta against neighboring trees. The motes float as they glimmer, absorbing and diffusing light, making the silence fill with dread.

Bedclothes bunched at the bottom of each bed, kicked out of the way during restless sleep, damp with anxiety. A pillow lies off the side of one bed at an angle, its case parted like a scream stifled by the kapok stuffing and the crumpled tag. Another pillow jammed against a headboard, bent double at its center, its breath knocked out, unable to gasp, staying silent in solidarity with the worn wooden floors and chests of drawers, the bookshelves, their clothes hanging like ghosts in their shared closet, the door jamb with their names and growth marks fading away, their book bags collapsed and askew on throw rugs lying out of place too near the door, their escape and their confinement.

If a bomb had gone off the walls would be down, the floors scattered with drywall dust and framing shrapnel from the home that once had been. They would have been mangled and sore with splinters, battered with gypsum chunks, with novels impelled by that instantaneous force into their foreheads and torsos, with fractured doors and airborne door knobs, with candelabra from the dining room, with silverware clanging away from its drawer, with armrests and ladder backs from the chairs set around the table waiting for a dinner that would no longer arrive in their bombed house. They would be hidden by an explosion of clothes, their stockinged feet peering out from a shirt cuff or a pair of worn dungarees, their faces hidden by a molehill of balled up socks, the air choking with new motes swimming away from the epicenter of the catastrophe.

But that is not what happened. So they sat. Waiting for that last argument to settle into the seams of the house and join its companions among the joists and conduit, among the pipes and insulation, among the spider webs and silverfish in the damp and dusty crawl space beneath their thoughts.

Careful