A vision?, a daydream?, a wandering in time, I guess. This had a curious feel, as if the story were entirely separate from me (rolling out on its own) yet all the ‘energy’ for the unrolling had to come from me to propell it. Difficult to explain. Like it was a film reel, but I had to run the projector.
It was a mountain of snow and literally months of travel and then many weeks of walking and climbing, and me and my men and the animals were near-frozen by the time we reached the small castle buried in the folds of the rock.
We wore heavy dark-furred boots that went past our knees, and dark-furred coats that went nearly to the ground, and over our hoods we had dark-furred brimmed hats. Our faces were covered with some light material close-up, but nearly covered anyway by the folds of the furred hoods and the low brim of the hats.
Our hands were gloved in the same dark fur and we all held large fairly heavy sticks that I felt were sheathed swords mostly, but a couple of different shape had shot (like single-shot), and we all used them as walking staffs. Mine was much lighter, though it certainly didn’t feel like it by then, as I struggled to keep on, and we all gasped for breath in the thin air. We had lost two men on this trek so far and I felt their deaths keenly as my responsibility. We had to succeed or it was all for nothing.
I was the only female in the group. They were taking me somewhere I had said I must go, though none of us truly understood why; a long way from home and up the mountain to people with whom we had nothing in common. I had some role with them that made this just the way it was. They didn’t understand but they would die to obey.
We reached the castle in the dead of night, and perhaps they would have kept us out, strangers with weapons (and they were ridiculously short, the lot of them, making us seem like giants, they seemed rather taken aback by this), but for the horrible storm that arose just as we arrived; any man would have mercy.
So they let us in and gave us a large empty stone room with a fireplace at the side, and they brought in some straw and course woven cloth for sleeping, and started a fire for us, and left us a large basin of water that seemed for washing, as another smaller had some unrecognizeable food near it and I assumed that was for drinking. I stood with my head down, unmoving with a few others, until they were fully gone, before the room got warm and I finally took off all my outerwear.
I smell like animals, I thought to myself with a sigh. There would not be much to cure that, but I took from one of the storage bags some things which I knew would help at least somewhat.
The men eventually stood with their backs to the wall and let me do a sort of sponge-bath, and after I was done I put on this heavy velvet-like white dress with sleeves so long they covered my hands if I didn’t push them up, and that had a very high collar that literally went as high as it could with a bit of stiffness and then a soft edge flowed up all around my neck so only my chin and bottom jawline were revealed.
I watched myself do this from outside me as much as I did it from inside me. I put on long soft but thick white boots that like our walking boots, went to just above the knee, but had this outer tie of sorts just below the knee.
I understood these were ceremonial clothes, and they also defined my ‘role’: I was a rider. I reached in the bag and pulled out a rectangular woven piece of cloth, slightly formed, that glinted with gold in the firelight, and weighed heavily in my hand, as if some of the threads for the weaving had quite literally been dipped in gold. It went around my waist, and a long cord wrapped around it from bottom to top in a complex macrame I knew well. I pulled on long gloves of a light color that were wide at the wrist and went over my sleeves. Then I brushed my straight black hair, rubbing a cloth treated with something nice smelling through it, and braided it down to my thighs where it reached, and it was done.
I touched the gold around my waist. The men in this temple would recognize this, I expected. I hoped. Surely they would. This was the girdle of the rider.
I recognized it then. From this life, my palyne-life! While the story was happening. This was the thing that a creature once gave me in a meditation, a creature that my IG had introduced me to, not an archetype meditation, just a spontaneous thing IG had done one day. I had called it on my blog the flying dragon because that is culturally what we have called it, and some pictures that utterly fail to begin to describe its glory were known from asian art. But it wasn’t a dragon. It was “the spirit of the river in the sky.” A demi-god; a deity. Certainly for these people it was a deity; their temple, high at the top of a mountain, was dedicated to this creature.
The rider’s girdle was a symbol, as I understood at the time. But what I had not understood was what one was riding. In fact I wondered at the time IG introduced me and it gave me this because it “didn’t look like the kind of dragon one rides” (that goes with stories of Western dragons).
It isn’t like riding a horse. It is riding dreams, riding energy, and sharing it; channeling it through oneself, as well. I understood without thinking much about it that my physical body was a nexus, just like long ago I had an experience where the ceramic of a small dragon was a nexus. My body was the nexus between that god (small-g)’s energy, that super powerful nature spirit, and my reality.
It was my ability to allow and slightly harness and hold onto that energy as it wove through me and around me, like the weaving of the girdle, that allowed that energy to more proactively act within the world as we know it.
I slept for a bit, curled up against a man I knew was the blacksmith, a burly bear of a man I had known since I was a little girl, who had been kind to me and my mother when my father died and was as much my father now, although of some slightly lower… class or caste, was the feeling.
As we expected, morning came ridiculously early for these people, as soon as the first light rose. I was hidden behind the men on purpose, as a monk spoke to the captain in a language none of us, including the captain, understood a single word of, but he seemed to get the idea. We all rose and followed him out.
There was a large, long room, that was ever so slightly tilted, with a fireplace on the end a bit lower. I puzzled over this, thinking maybe it was to make cleaning the floor a lot easier, until I decided it was the heat; it rose, and so they could put a fireplace at one end, and warm it all the way to the other. That seemed pretty smart to me.
There were a few dozen men there, maybe 40 or so, squatting around a very long low stone table, each with a small bowl in front of them. My men clumsily squatted, far too large by comparison and not used to squatting with such limber grace, until I stepped out from behind the blacksmith as he moved to the side and the room of men got sight of me.
I realized my standing in front of the fire probably outlined me in light and made the effect that much more intense. A loud gasp like a single-gasp times 40 filled the room, and dozens of pairs of eyes wide as saucers and mouths in awe stared at me silently.
I looked at the far end of the table, knowing the man sitting there had some kind of authority here. He was astonished too, but he seemed taken aback by a greater and more serious amazement; and I knew that he knew why I was here, and I smiled at him kindly.
The men started talking all at once then, a fast rising-higher babble of amazement and excitement and even mild panic, until a sharp word from him and motion with his hand rendered them silent. He stood, and then carefully bowed to me, and all the men followed him in this.
My captain looked at me with a stern mouth but laughing eyes, and I knew he was both relieved and chagrined. He had seriously wondered if I was just a bit delusional, but now he knew I was right to have led our journey here, to have risked himself and a couple townmen and a few of his soldiers for what to him seemed like my whim.
We were there three days before I found him. I didn’t know I was looking for him until I walked past him. I mean I suspected I was looking for someone, but I wasn’t really sure of any details. The creature, the god, the nature-spirit, whatever one wants to call it, he had told me in a dream to come here, so I had followed his instructions. That’s about all I knew.
He was a young man, maybe 18 or so. He was sweeping when I walked past him, stopped in my tracks and turned to him. He was trying desperately to look down, out of some polite cultural habit I assumed–or perhaps it was because I was a woman–while the other part of him I could tell desperately wanted to examine every part of me in great detail. I handed his broom to one of my men who cheerfully took up where he left off, and I raised his chin up to see me directly.
His eyes were clear and alive. I could see the sparks of fire and water and air in him, and yet the grounding in earth, that would make him so ideal as a rider. I was surprised. I thought riders had to be women. I mean it had always been that way for us. But now I saw that was not what mattered.
I considered that I had never seen this before, I had not known these were the qualities until now.
I was the only rider I had ever known. My aunt, the last rider, had died in battle before my birth. It was a family legacy I was born into; the eldest daughter of the eldest son in each generation, was the tradition; a virgin until the rider cloth was handed over, at which point she could marry. But there were no more sons in our line; my father had died when I was young, so that could never happen again.
I had not thought a great deal about what was to become of the rider line. One only saw the creature directly–usually in a powerful dream or a smoke-filled hand-led journey in a hut of one of the holy ones–a couple of times in life, it was said, and myself only once some years before. I suppose I had assumed that my eldest daughter would simply take the lineage, as I lacked a brother.
But when I saw the young man I knew this was not so. He was why I was here, why I’d been told to travel to this place. He would be the next rider.
It had seemed to me, from the few days at the temple, that their faith was an old one. They had not actually had any manifestation of the creature in so long that they had forgotten to expect it. Maybe they did or didn’t even believe it was real. Maybe for them it was merely a spiritual symbol, not a nature creature as real as you or I, though less visible to mere mortals. They went about their castle life in a simple way, cleaning and eating and praying and some music at night and sometimes art.
One of my men, unusually good with languages, said his impression from attempting to talk with them was that they were much more active in summer, when it was merely very cold instead of beyond freezing. Personally I figured since the demi-god was only around a couple times in each generation anyway, and at that in a rather “metaphysical” way (although there was a story from several generations back… well never mind), maybe they should just make a trip to the top of the mountain for a great ritual, but live in the valley where the temperature was a little more sane. In other seasons, at least.
But it was plain that they lived at the top of the mountain because at some point in time, probably someone, maybe a rider?, had figured this was closest to it.
I just stared at the young man with a small smile, and he took the bold opportunity to peruse me in every detail, his eyes coming back again and again to the foot of golden fabric wound around my waist that marked me as “the god’s” in his world. I had the odd sense that some ‘greater part of me’ was looking through me as well, sharing my perceptions but also seeing much more, in the young man. I wondered if this part of me was in fact the lord of sky, the fiery river of air, and I had never before thought enough about it to become ‘aware’ of that part of me being part of him. That seemed both disconcerting and fascinating.
After a couple of minutes, I smiled at him, touched his jaw with my gloved fingers, and turned and walked away. I could feel it building in me now, that there would be some kind of ritual, like the kind the holy ones had done for me when I came of age, and he would be next.
I did, just a twinge, feel a sort of sadness. This was a big part of my identity. I was the rider and everybody knew. I was special. This would end that title. It would be his now. I’m not even old, some part of me mourned, not as old as one normally was to give it up to the next generation come of age. But whatever the reason, it felt rather silly and pointless to argue. I felt an accepting sort of fatalism then. It simply was, as it was meant to be, as all things are, and so it is.
That night at dinner, I got up and walked beside the table. All the men of the castle stopped eating. I had not done this before and they seemed very sensitive to my every move and expression. I watched the leader, who watched me, and I stopped behind the young man. I put my gloved hand on his head and I looked at the leader and nodded my head, and he nodded in return. He understands, I thought in some relief, and I went back to my place and ate the bowl of food they had provided. The moment they had seen my attire they had been giving me other things in my bowl than my men had, small chunks of meat and some spices. Strange but fairly good tasting.
I wondered if the young man would be treated specially, or if his ascetic lifestyle would stay the same. I supposed it would be up to the man in charge and how he reacted to all this, in the end.
Early the next morning, we were awoken early. The man in charge led us all through their castle which at some point ceased being stone walls and began being mountain walls. It was built into the stone of the mountain and I could tell that over many years it had gradually expanded into a minor fortress of twists and turns, many hallways we all had to duck to walk through. After walking slightly downhill for a bit, we came into a giant cavern, but with most of the top open to the sky. I could tell that they had been working hard to clear many many feet of snow out of this. Three inset-only fireplaces were blazing, their smoke rising up the surface of the walls in well-worn paths of darkness.
What we came for was at the far side, actually it took up about 50% of the curvature of the outdoor room, though it was sheltered by natural stone above it, and set back several feet under a wide ledge. It looked in fact as if it had been made to fit under the ledge for protection from the weather elements. It was very large, colorful winding statue of what in this (palyne) life I call the river-of-sky. (Although that lacks the fire element it should also have.)
I went close to it, and ran my hands lightly across its face, unable to stop smiling hugely. It was so charming, the art of how they rendered him. Similar to the asian art we know, but more accurate; the head more flattened vertically, and the body much longer and in a much more complex sinuously graceful shape; and the ‘feathers’ were many colors of blue of the sky. They had not mistaken this for actual feathers, or fire, I could see; they understood it was the play of his energy against the air that caused that effect.
I touched it here and there with my gloved hands, seeing how the fireplaces were positioned for effect. The many ‘featherings’ along its body looked like they really do, like feathers of flames made of air… it had looked a little dingy, slightly sooty, at first glance, though up close I could see that it was simply old and worn, cracked and patched in places, the paint faded, but now I saw how the reflected flickering began to make it look like the whole thing was in constant motion, just like he always is, of course.
I was delighted, and I clapped my hands and bounced a little, laughing as I stepped back, grinning at the temple master who grinned back at me. We did not speak the same language, but we both spoke this. I had seen a couple of very small statuettes of the creature in the main castle, but this one was huge! This is the one they use for major prayer/ritual, I realized.
It occurred to me that they were expecting ME to do something. I shifted uncomfortably, suddenly insecure. I was not a holy one. I didn’t have any actual rituals. I was merely someone marked. They don’t know that, some part of me observed, and everything about you is foreign to them anyway. Well, that much was true. Was that the Lord of Sky, talking to me, I wondered? Feeling like that other-part-of-me?
I felt as if I had to do something. I couldn’t just take off the girdle and hand it to the fellow, it felt like it needed to be some really big ritual. I mean you know, these guys lived in a subfreezing mountain castle totally dedicated to this creature. There was no bigger deal in the world to them, surely! Besides, I knew that the more energy put into a ritual, the more likely “the energy of the creature would be present” for the gifting, as he had been for mine.
So after a few minutes, I stood in the middle of the room, as the light of day began to filter into the sky above us, and I began to sing a song that my grandmother had taught me, that is usaully sung annually in the harvest time. A song about the Lord of Air, the River of Sky, the Flame of Wind, and his journey through the many-worlds of our earth, and how he would sometimes come and choose a maiden to be his vessel, to share his dreams at times, to bring his energy into our world, to wear the golden gear of the rider, which sometimes in some generations certain holy ones could “see” on them even when the person was wearing nothing. So it was said.
As for the maiden part, I didn’t have any answer for that, for why his choice was a man and not a woman this time, but who was I to argue. These people didn’t speak my language anyway, they wouldn’t know the song was about a maiden, or if they had the sense of it, perhaps they would think it was about me.
So I sang it twice fully through, as it had a sing-song rythym and a bit of drone-note repetition and nicely induced that state of mind so good for prayer. I sang the chorus repeatedly at the end, it was the same over and over, and all the men joined in, repeating the sounds and tones, until the deep area under the ledge of half the room was echoing back the song, and many of the men were just singing very low notes that harmonized but had no words or rythym, and it was a fabulous effect that made the body sway even without conscious intent.
As I swayed, I began to untie the complex corded weaves of the cord around my rider cloth, and as I got closer and closer to finished the whole feel of the room and the morning and the sky took on a very odd, thick and powerful sense. You could feel the energy thickening and coiling above us.
As I unwound the slightly-formed cloth from my body, a massive, unbelievably massive shape dawned on us above, actually manifesting, and we looked up into a portion of the face of the creature, which had halted about a hundred yards above us. Constantly motion of the rest of it was like a shadow, but the view of the fact was so simultaneously amazing and beautiful and terrifying that the men including mine were on their knees, I realized. I felt a calmness, an acceptance. I understood.
The face turned from us upward, and the length of it began to move, the impossibly long length of it, with many hundreds of serpentine curves and sinuous winding constantly in motion, much like a snake how the ‘pattern’ of the curve is held where the ‘motion moves through’ that pattern. More and more of it gathered above us, making the entire sky look like it was filled with not-quite-invisible fire-feathers of the eddies of air against its motion.
I went to the young man and pulled him into the center of the room. I put the girdle of golden cloth around him, smiling sweetly at him, and he looked like he was 90% astonished and amazed, and about 10% thinking he had some inkling of this, some feeling all along from the moment he saw me that I was there for him, that he was of the sky-lord, that this was all meant to be.
I put one of his hands on it to hold the fabric while I began the weave of the cord, still singing the chorus over and over. The translation filtered through to the me who was dreamy-daydreaming. This is my later, blogging-translation as palyne, which is not exact but I hope close.
In every generation comes a maiden who is vessel
Who is temple to the river of the sky
And of the wind of fire she will ride throughout the night
She is virgin for the god who lives up high
… She is walking in the world to be his eyes.
As I finished the winding and tying, I lifted a gloved hand to the room and they all fell silent. I changed the words a little and sang to him alone, that he was master and vessel of the temple of the River of the Sky, and walking in the world to be His eyes. And then as I bowed very low at his feet, there was a great and massive noise above us like the sound of a thousand trees bending different ways in the wind, and when I finally rose and looked up, all the room including the young man were staring off in one direction, watching the impossibly huge, long, amazing river-of-sky fly off in a wind-fire flurry of sinuous pattern.
I kissed the young man on the forehead then, and looked into his shining eyes, and thought that everything was going to be just fine.
When it was fully out of sight, I stepped over to stand with my men, and the leader of their temple went to the young man and said some things and grasped his arms and they bowed to each other, and then all the men came rushing toward him, boisterous and bouncing and half-shouting with delight. I grinned. It was probably the most exciting day of their lives and one that would be talked about for many generations.
I myself had not had the physical of him arrive, not like that; that was beyond-words amazing!
As I looked across the room at the leader, with the cracked and faded statue behind him, I understood something I had not before, and my smile faded as a little sad yet touched realization set in. My travel here was not about the young man. He could have been given the rider cloth in a dream. It was not for him, as I had thought; there was no need for the cloth to change hands; it was just a piece of fabric.
My visit was for the temple. One of the few, maybe only, temples in the world still dedicated to this glorious spirit. So long since they had literally seen the lord of sky that he had become a matter of myth. They held the faith, held the line, they kept the statue patched and painted, they prayed and chanted, they trusted from their dreams and meditations that he was real enough, and they had not demanded or required physical proof of him to maintain their loyalty.
But they deserved it. He wanted them to have that. To have a tall foreign woman in clothes like they’d never seen to come officially hand over the rider wear, like passing on a torch, to make it exotic and beautiful and a whole story to tell. To really see his glory, and I had the inner sense that he was laughing in delight as he rolled away, creating as much wind-friction on his skin as he could just for the sheer joy of it.
One of my men came in the doorway and said low to the captain that our animals were loaded and we were ready to go. How did the leader know we were planning to leave after I gave away the rider-cloth? I wondered. And how did he know that would happen right now? I looked across the room at him curiously. I’d had a thought, after I met the young man, wondering if the leader would be in any way put out that the designated rider was not him. But as I looked at him I realized that he knew. He knew why the sky-lord had come.
I had the feeling that it might have been his fervent prayers to the god, to bolster the faith of his men, to give some kind of manifestation of his glory, that might have been behind the decision to send me here and show up for the ritual.
All this time I had thought it was some big issue about me, or destiny, or the young man, or even the temple, then–and it was about the temple, in great part, yes–but I suddenly had the feeling that it was in fact that quiet man, dark and short and with his slanted eyes, who had such powerful energy of his own, and such faith and love for that deity, that he had managed to set in motion this entire chain of events.
I began to understand then why he was the leader of the temple. It wasn’t just an honorary title. He was a very powerful man, much like our holy ones, but apparently not nearly as weird, I thought with some humor. I felt while looking at him, and he at me, through this big outdoor room as the sun rose, the men still milling about around the new rider, the whole setting starting to feel a bit surreal, I felt as if he knew a little of what I was thinking, that I was realizing the larger picture of it and his role, and I slowly lifted the hem of my dress and bowed low to the ground, facing him, acknowledging him. He bowed low in return.
And then I grasped arms with the young man and nodded a goodbye, and my men and I were led back to the castle where we donned our gear and then to the outdoors, followed by the energetic men, where we struck out alone. I looked out over the valley so incredibly far and distant below, as we began the long and perilous journey back toward home.
Um. Yeah, and then I wrote an email about an XML problem in a website at work and … it’s just another day.
The one thing I find interesting is that I hadn’t really thought about that creature since IG introduced me to it eons ago. I had asked for a trade of energies like I do archetypes, though it wasn’t an archetype at least not of the normal sort I ask for. Yet I was so powerfully drawn to letting myself “fall into that self-unfolding” sort of daydream — the non-self-created, although-self-propelled, daydream — I couldn’t resist it, as if it was the energy of that creature drawing me.
Now I wonder why. Was I just interested-with-passion? Was the creature more real than I granted and I was drawn to that energy? Was the creature literally wanting me to become this and do this and it isn’t real except in that daytime-conscious-dream? Was I sitting-in-on some identity who once did that? (She felt like the people who are normally the 2nd of 4, the Queen, ‘dominant in body’ in our life there.) I have no idea.
[Later edit: Did some combination of all this energy just want this to be written down? Like how his energy ‘rides’ in our reality due to the anchor of his rider, am I –here’s a sound-alike pun — his writer? Bringing his energy into this reality by recording it?]