Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Rites of Spring

Rites of Spring
It is cold, wet, drizzle, sometimes sleet, and we make our way along the cliff path towards the little cottage. Even before we reach there, the door opens, and the old woman greets us, welcoming us inside. "Be seated," she tells us, and brings us each a warm cup of sweet tea, and we sit back in the chairs, in front of the warmth of the fire, blazing brightly. The room is dark and cosy, lit by the flickering flame of candles, placed on the window ledges around us. The window rattles with the sound of hail, small pellets of ice harshly battering against the glass.
She takes a larger red candle, inscribed with a large gold circle, inside which are three interlocking eclipses. This is placed on the table, and she takes a taper and lights it. She asks why we have come.
My mother speaks. She explains why we have come, of how the frost could destroy the crops, lay barren the earth, and how winter still holds the land in an icy grip, even though the time of spring is upon us. I remain silent, I am an observer, not a speaker, the dutiful daughter. My time has not yet come, but it is near. I am the maiden, the promise of new beginnings.
This woman is a weather worker, it is an ancient art, mostly lost, and she tells us of her path. "This is not lightly done, for rain and sun here could mean blizzards and snow elsewhere. There is a balance, and it takes wisdom to see the path, and find the way. Your daughter will help us find the way."
She moves the candle in front of me, and asks me to tell her what I can see. My time has come. I look into the flame, yellow, flickering, smoky.
I see to the east, the storm clouds, and the swell of dark waves beneath the moonless sky. Images flicker into my mind. A mansion stands on the hill, and music comes from within, and it is ablaze with light, and the sound of partying. Over the hill, a small house, an old couple clutching each other for warmth, as their fire dies, the wooden embers a dull glow. Birds fly outside, seeking in vain for water beneath a frozen pond. The world is covered in a canopy of white, and it is a cold and silent land, as quiet as a grave. The candle burns, a cold blue flame, with no heat.
A voice cries out "In a cold and loveless world we have kept the love to ourselves".
I see to the south, the dry lands. Planes are landing, and food is being loaded, and flown away into the distant sky while children watch with hunger in their bellies. Elsewhere fires burn fiercely, fanned by strong winds, and there is no water. The streams have run dry, the crops are failing, the cattle are dying. The candle burns with a red fire, hot and scorching, and my face is seared with heat.
A voice cries out "In a hungry and despairing world, we have failed to share our bread"
I see to the west, and the earth is in convulsions, the planet screaming in pain. Poorly constructed houses have fallen apart, roads collapsed inwards. Amidst the wreckage of the buildings are the moans of the injured and the dying, and limbs askew of the dead. A rain falls, a black rain of ashes, and there is much weeping. The candle burns with a purple flame, lighting the path for rescuers, and in mourning for those who have died.
A voice cries out "In a dark and disfigured world, we have not held out the light of life".
I see to the north, the northern lights. The church is beneath the blazing colours, the ancient stones lit by a curtain of lights, and inside all is ablaze with light. I am inside, and I look down the aisle, and a hundred small candles light the path towards a blazing cross of candles. The people sing of sorrow and of joy, of suffering and the refiners fire, and of how they must pass through the flames. They have been waiting for a long time, and now their time is near. They leave in silence, departing in peace, and their task has just begun. The candle shines with glory, and burns with a white flame, calm and gentle.
A voice cries out: "This is the moment to speak, to act, to change, to hope, and wrestle for wholeness and the light of justice and freedom. Kindle in us the fire of love."
And I return, and it is over. There is only the silence, and my mother holding my hand firmly in hers, and I know what I must tell the old woman, that we must each take up our appointed task. And she nods, and takes up a handful of dust from an earthen bowl, and faces to the east, and blows softly, until it leaves her hand, falling to the west. The rites of spring have begun, and we must depart.
Dawn is breaking, and the ice upon the path is thawing, as the wind changes slowly from east to west, and the sun rises. Ahead is the dolmen, the ancient stones that are our past, our present, and our future. The past is behind us. The present moment is complete. And we vanish down the stone passage, into the darkness, to rest beneath the sacred earth until the future calls us forth once more.

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