Sunday, August 26, 2007
MoonSense by Wendy L. Brown
My novel MoonSense is forthcoming form Creatrix Books in spring 2008. Here is a little preview:
Once a long time ago in the Time of the Moon Priestess, a girl child was born and was named Havida. Three dark spiral curls were plastered on her head when she slithered out and the handprint of the Goddess. I know this because I was there: I caught her in my arms and gently laid her on her mother’s breast. Her mother Armonis took her tenderly into the shelter of her warmth and after blessing her silently with the Mother’s Blessing, offered her a breast. The girl baby sucked eagerly and the line of pain across Armonis’ forehead transformed itself into jubilation.
When I saw the sign of the Goddess I immediately sent my hand—maiden Ashirah to bring the flask of Sacred Oil from my medicine pouch. It is customary to anoint a girl child on the eighth day when the Heavenly Beings who attend the birth recede back into the Sky Realm and we prepare the child to enter the First Naming Ceremony and grounding into human life, a great ceremony that all the tribe would attend. And it would be so. But I opened the flask impatiently almost as if in a dream, almost as if impelled. When the fragrance of the sweetened oil was unstoppered, Armonis looked up questioningly from her contemplation of her baby’s features. Although Armonis has the Tongue That Speaks Not, not by choice but by an accident of birth, I could see in her eyes that her Special Eye was opened. She, too, saw the signs: the dark spirals, the Handprint, and the iridescent radiance that surrounded the child.
For those of us who can see with our Special Eye, we see this radiance and its dazzling array of colors around each person. And it was not unusual for a woman to have her Special Eye opened after childbirth. But this light not only was beautiful, it emanated a serenity I have experienced solely in our elders, have only experienced myself recently long after my Second Naming when I became a woman. I was approaching my Third Naming, when I become a crone. For an infant immediately after the birthing to be so serene meant that the child was truly gifted.
As I knelt by Armonis’ side, the three women who had been in attendance on Armonis also knelt in reverence. Mikihah still had tears of joy in her eyes as she stroked Armonis’ dark damp hair back from her forehead and cooed delightedly at the baby. The other friend Rahal, swept away the bloodied sheets that were under Armonis and replaced them with fresh ones, just as she had replaced the other soiled ones through—out the night. Hanoch, her mother, brought Armonis clear cool water and fruit cut into small pieces to quench her mouth. They knelt as soon as they saw me falling to my knees, and breathed quietly in enraptured silence while I poured three small drops of the sweet thick oil on the baby’s wet head, still smeared with the fluids of the birth. I intoned solemnly the words of the ancient Blessing:
Daughter of the Goddess Brought to life out of Light Brought to light out of Life You are our sister
our daughter our mother
Oh, cherished One May you fulfill your Holy Destiny
and may we protect and honor your Divinity.
The women sang the Ahmen with me. Armonis repeated the words silently and we were enfolded in a great sense of peace, as though the Goddess had thrown her arms around us and enfolded us to her.
Then I arose and gathered my warm woolen cloak about me while the women chattered and made the mother and child comfortable. Mikihah and Rahal, breast sisters to Armonis, knew her well since childhood. They would take excellent care of her and I could now announce the arrival of the newest member of our tribe.
As I swung open the heavy doors of the Birthing Temple, the cool freshness of the night wafted through, and refreshed my body and spirit. Stars blazed in the night sky as I pulled the purple banner up the pole. Purple is the color for a girl, as all daughters are spiritually able to become a priestess. Despite the night’s passage toward dawn, people waited about for news. When I took the purple banner up, they cheered and laughed and cups of wine on a golden tray appeared, delivered by hand—maidens of the High Priestess.
Two men stepped forward simultaneously, Armonis’ lovers. One held dried figs, grapes and pears in a basket woven from dough, and a small flask of oil. The other held two golden bracelets, one for a woman and one for a child. He carried a small loaf of bread and flask of oil. I looked at each man and thought how wise Armonis was in her choice of lovers. One could sustain her physically if the need ever came to be, the other could sustain her spirit with poetry and youthful passion. Both of them were beautiful to look upon, burnished dark by the sun with long dark curls, though the second had silver streaks through his. Their dark eyes stared at me, somber with question, yet understanding they could not address me first. I accepted their gifts and bowed, and the solemnity became wide white smiles as they understood that Armonis lived as well as the child.
I went back into the Birthing Temple, closing the door on the sounds of singing beginning to arise through the cool night air, musing to myself if Armonis preferred one of them to the other. The young one certainly smoked with intensity, like a blazing fire. But the other, secure in his position in our tribe because his mother was a deeply respected elder, had an air of intelligence, charm, and grace. Each sat at her table as often as the other, and each spent as much time in her bed, as far as I could tell. I sighed and shook my head as I presented her with the gifts. Lucky woman!
Without signal words used, Armonis knew from the vibration in each gift who was the giver. “How exquisite!” Mikihah exclaimed, as I fastened the bracelet on Armonis’ wrist. The small one I added to the flat basket which would hold more presents from the tribe at the Naming Ceremony. Armonis turned her wrist this way and that to admire the workings on the flat delicate bracelet, then opened her mouth so her mother could pop in a grape.
I could see the jubilation had quickly become exhaustion. The birth had been a long one. I took the sleeping infant, wrapped her in a cotton blanket and handed her to Mikihah. Hanoch asked Armonis in signal language if she needed anything, was comfortable, then kissed her on her forehead and her eyelids, and went to lie down on the smaller bed in the corner of the room. Rahal banked the fire, then came to my side and together we closed the veils around the now drowsing mother. The veils between This World and The Other World also closed, silently, secretly. New life had been born. The Not Yet Born and the Dead went back to their places.