Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Heirophant's New Clothes

     The story you are about to read is true.  Okay, it’s a conglomeration of stories that are true, and which I have seen repeated in various forms and sub-cultures over the years.  The names have been changed for the usual reasons.

     Quite some years ago, when this ancient land was not quite so ancient, there was a priestess named Wind.  Not wind like in watch, she told the chat-rooms, but like the Air.  She was the High Priestess of Zephyr Coven, and loved the respect that this brought her . . . to distraction.  She and her beloved coven-mates could often be found in sunny glens and psychic fairs, dancing in ritual garb or clad in the sky, showing to all the world a confidence and ease with themselves.  An ease that none of them felt, quite as much as they thought they did.  Wind loved celebrating the freedom her faith gave her, with friends and with lovers, and of watching the auras of those around her: the mixings of gorgeous reds, purples, blues, and yellows.  She was especially fond of helping others in psychic or magical distress, and of sharing her visions and insights with others. 

     Most priestesses are busy women indeed, giving help to those they can, seeking to help others learn and learn from those others, and to walk always in whatever way their path calls for.  Wind, however, was always busy showing the world how free and humble and insightful she was, and thus she became very popular.  Many people came to visit Wind and her coven, and her life was full of celebration.

     One day, as Wind and her sister-in-heart Sybil were lazing in a clearing, Wind was playing her pan-pipes.  A stranger came up to them both, ignoring their nudity, and complimented Wind on her pipe playing.  She smiled, and pointed out that she had no training in them, but had merely been playing what was in her heart, and thanked him for the compliment.  He looked at her in amazement.

     “I thought perhaps another had taught that tune to you," he said, "but now that I see you more closely, I understand!  I have a gift, fair ladies: I know not only all my own past lives, but I can see the past lives of others, as well.  For I see now that you are both sisters, or were hundreds of years ago, and daughters to me.  That song was known only to my tribe at that time, and has not been played for over a century, since we were wiped out by a grim betrayal.” 

     At that moment, his calm broke, and he wept openly and unashamed at his grief, even as the two sisters moved in vain to comfort him.  Asking him more about himself, they learned that he was Roivas, and was a wanderer in this life, destined never to know a place of true rest because of the call of the Nainilyh, the guardian-spirits whom he served.  Being house-mates, and compassionate to his plight, the two sisters invited him to their house at once, and he became their guest.

     Wind and Sybil gave Roivas their blessings and protection, as he was their guest, and introduced him to the rest of their coven.  Raven, Heather, She-Wolf and Delilah all received him, and made him welcome.  After Roivas brought the conversation to numerology, Heather noted that his addition brought their number up to seven, a very potent number.  Although she had only referred to his company, Roivas interrupted, and said that he could never join any coven, for the powers that flowed through him were only for the protection of women.  And anyway, he said, they would overpower and outbalance any circle’s harmony.  He then retired to his guest-room, to perform his rituals of prayer according to his vows to the Nainilyh.  There was a brief time of silence, and the room exploded with questions and conjecture.

     Which was, of course, how Roivas had wanted it.

     Day and night he stayed in his room.  Save for brief forays to seek food or some spending money (his traveling ways, required by his vows, made it impossible to hold down a job), he worked his mighty magics on behalf of the coven that had welcomed him. 

     “You see,” he explained, “only I, or another trained as I have been, can craft such magics.  I dare not perform them before you, or you might be harmed by their power, for you have not been consecrated to them as I have.  Please allow me to do this, in gratitude for all you have done for me.”  The fact that he had made no sexual overtures to any of them seemed to give credence to his claims of a sanctified life.  When he was alone he rested and laughed heartily, for the coven was coming to trust him and his mystery more than they trusted themselves.

     Wind had a nagging feeling that something was awry, but she did not want to seem rude, or a fool.  So she asked Raven to speak with Roivas in his room, and quietly scan the energies therein.  She shared none of her misgivings with Raven, and told no one else in the coven of their actions.  It seemed the wise thing to do.

     Raven knocked, entered, and saw nothing unusual about the room at all

     “Lord and Lady!” thought she, “I can’t see what he’s been doing at all!”  But when she strained to see, she thought perhaps she did see something.  So fearing to lose the respect of Roivas and of her coven, she pretended to see the energies and rituals he had been crafting.

     “What do you think, Lady?” asked Roivas, “I tried to tone it down a little, to be subtle.  Did you notice the way I wove the elemental powers together, here and here?”

     “Yes indeed,” said Raven, now half-believing that she saw what he spoke of. 

     “I’m glad,” he said warmly, “that you think it might help.  You know, most people couldn’t grasp the intricacy of this work, as you have done . . .”  They spent the next few hours talking, and Raven returned to Wind and told her how marvelous the spells he worked were.

     A few days later, Wind was again curious about how the work was progressing.  Something seemed not quite right, but she didn’t want to offend her guest, or hurt Raven’s feelings.  This time she quietly sent Heather to view his craft, again telling no one else in the coven of her concerns.  As had happened with Raven, Heather could see nothing, but betwixt her insecurity and his flattery returned to Wind aglow with tales of Roivas’ power and insight.  So it went with She-Wolf and Delilah, as well: over the next few weeks, Roivas revealed that Heather had been a Highlands wise-woman and his lover in a past life, that She-Wolf had always been a hunter and warrior, and that Delilah had been a priestess of Atlantis, helping him with the sacrament of the Old Gods.

     Then Jane came to visit.

     Jane was not a pagan, nor a witch, nor a sorceress of any stripe or hue.  She was the owner and operator of a health food store down the street from Wind and Sybil’s house, and had been friends with them for years.  Wind and Sybil told her how wonderful and insightful Roivas was, and she smelled a rat.  She said as much, and advised them both to get rid of him.  They refused.

     “I don’t trust him,” said Jane, “Your business, you’re grown women, but please be careful.  This sounds a bit too down pat, somehow.”  The two sisters invited Jane to their house to meet Roivas, confident that if anyone could bring out her hidden talents in the mystic arts, it would be he.

     The evening went well at first, if a bit guardedly.  Then, Roivas began talking of the difficulty in mastering more than one style of magic, as he had. 

     Jane didn’t care, and wasn’t concerned with spells.

     Roivas started telling her of her past lives.

     Jane said she was Christian and therefore didn’t have any past lives.

     Roivas told her of his vows to use sex only in its highest, most pure and magical form.

     Jane didn’t care if he was found naked in a bathtub of lime Jell-O with two hippos and a hummingbird, and said as much.

     In the end, Jane left, after quietly asking her friends to kick the fruit cup out before something bad happened.

     After Jane left, Roivas told the sisters that his worst fears were realized: the traitor that had killed their tribe lifetimes ago had returned, masquerading as their friend!  This was why Jane denied having any past lives, he explained, and why she pretended not to be magically active.  She was destined to destroy them all, life after life, so long as she got the chance.  He wept openly in his love for them, and his fears for their fate.  She had probably tried to turn them against him, divide the three of them, hadn’t she, to better pick them off later.  Just when they had re-united as a family!

     That night, Wind slept badly, and her few dreams were sorely troubled.  She awoke with a new resolve: she would see his spells and works herself, and judge him by his actions rather than by anyone’s words.  She gathered the whole of the coven together, and as one they went to see Roivas in his room.  These were serious charges on both sides, and it was time to see for certain.

     She knocked.  He answered.  She explained, and he let them all in with good grace, understanding and compassionate.  All were in awe at Roivas’ magical workings.  Even Roivas himself half-believed his stories by this time, and joined them in the dance of words - but no contradictions – describing the mastery of his magical works.  “Magnificent!” said Wind’s coven-mates, “How elegant, yet so simple.  No wonder it takes so long to prepare!”

     Wind saw nothing.  She moaned inwardly, thinking the fault must lie in her.  Yet she feared to lose the respect and love of her fellows, so aloud she said, “It’s dazzling, beautiful!”  And everyone agreed.

     Over the next few days, change came rapidly.  Spells were crafted against Jane in the name of defense and justice (Roivas was "powerless to help," as his vows forbade him from "ever working against a woman"), and sure enough, her health began to suffer.  Roivas spent little time in his room any more, saying that it needed the space to grow during its last stages, and alternated sleeping in Wind’s bed and Sybil’s.  He knew that this would only be for a short while: the rest of the coven were nearly convinced that his magical path could only be taught through lovemaking, and he was mentally preparing to propose that the original, Atlantian Great Rite was an act of group sex.

     The months passed for the coven in a rushed, dreamless sort of way.  Roivas kept them all busy: between lessons in Atlantian Sorcery, Ninjitzu, and Sex Magic, not to mention all their jobs, there was little time for reflection.  Or thought at all, for that matter. 

     At last came the weekend of the great fair, when the protections he had placed upon them all would doubtless be most sorely needed, and the training he’d been giving them best displayed.  They walked out in full glory, proud of the powers they had gained from beloved Roivas, and wishing he could have accompanied them.  Practitioners of a hundred arts, not to mention a variety of groupies, stopped what they were doing to watch Zephyr Coven pass by.  Word had spread of their new-found powers, of their angelic auras and impenetrable shields, and all strained to witness the marvelous new magics at work. 

     No one could quite see these shields or angelic auras, of course, for they existed only in the imaginations of Wind and her coven.  There were echoes, from their belief, but that was all.  But each person was afraid to be thought a fool or headblind, so everyone strained to see more of the higher magics that these women wore, and many “Oh’s” and “Ah’s” sighed through the crowd.

     Children had been brought to the fair, of course.  And one little girl, head cocked to one side, said in a much louder voice than she thought she used, “But there’s nothing there!”

     Slowly at first, but with rising speed and clarity, everyone began to realize the truth.  The magnificent wards were only dream-stuff and shadow, no more substantial than a promise made in wine.  Wind knew the truth too, as did her coven, but they kept their heads held high as they finished their procession.  They counted on the short memory of humans to repair their tarnished reputation and ease their humiliation, a humiliation made no less for having been shared.  By the time they returned to Wind and Sybil’s home, Roivas was of course gone.  Along with cash, many of their valuables, and several credit cards.

     Wind locked herself in her room and wept.  “I was wrong!” she sobbed, “I’m not a priestess!  I’m not worthy of anything!  I’m nothing!  I should die!” 

     Eventually, Sybil managed to pick the lock, and they held each other until the tears stopped, and they could think again.  The coven met again that night, and each member resolved, then and there, never to allow herself to be duped again.

     Zephyr Coven still exists, though it has never been the same. It‘s the Walking Wounded Coven now, and while people meeting them can see the love and trust between them, it’s nothing like it was. 

     Wind stepped down from her role as High Priestess, and has never forgiven herself for “betraying her friends.”  Later, she left the Craft behind her entirely.  She tries not to think too much about it, or the friends she needlessly left behind.  Wind went into a partnership with Jane, who is in turn still trying to get her to talk about what happened.  Wind trusts herself little, loves herself less, and is weaker for it.

     Sybil is High Priestess, and has been ever since Wind stepped down in spite of her friends’ protests.  She rarely laughs, now, so heavy do her responsibilities weigh upon her.  She takes responsibility for her own decisions, and for everyone else’s too.  This leaves little time for laughter.

     Raven and Heather were married six months after the fair disaster, and are completely devoted to each other.  Raven trusts no one now, save for Heather, who in turn keeps trying to force her to trust again, “for her own good.”  Thus they have established a cycle that could go on forever.

     She-Wolf has come to believe that all men are evil and that love is a weakness, and is training the daughter Roivas left her to bear accordingly.  The rest of the coven quietly tries to soften the impact of so much bitterness, but there’s a limit as to how much they can do.  She-Wolf’s daughter, Lilith, at least knows she can talk to the rest of the coven.  But she still dreads the day she’s caught dating anyone male.

     Delilah hasn’t been able to feel whole or loved unless she was in a sexual relationship ever since Roivas, and so bases her self-image solely on the pleasure she can give men.  She and Lilith are each determined to help the other through these trying times, blind leading blind.

     All these psychic scars naturally caused their own problems in due course.  But that is a story for another time.


No comments:

Post a Comment