the Stars beneath the Earth
Long long ago, once upon a time before time……there was a great well-spring in the midst of the deep forest. No one knew how it had come to be there – some say it was the entrance to another world that the ancestors had come here by, for on clear nights their fires could be seen burning in its depths; others said that it was all that remained of a forgotten people who knew the secret of eternal life, for it never ceased from flowing and gave the land its beautiful clear waters, healing and life giving – all knew that it was magical, a very sacred place, and, being such, they kept the old stories about it going, to make sure the young ones did not go near; for only the women elders knew the secrets of the old well….and they would tell no man of those secrets so long as they were its guardians!
And thats how it remained for many generations, until, a great catastrophe came upon the land in the form of a dark fiery dragon that appeared out of the eastern sky and swept across the face of the Great Mother Erdda, shaking her body with a fearsome roar and plunging all into darkness and endless biting cold…the people were forced to flee south across the wide valleys and left their homelands and the ancient well to memory.
The land slept beneath a blanket of frozen tundra and eventually became covered in a monstrous creeping wall of ice, two mountains deep – for what seemed an eternity the people remained exiled from their homeland, and found themselves fighting for survival – unsure anymore of the Great Mother and her wise eternal ways, all seemed to have been thrown into discord…..
Amidst the people the dreamers kept their trist with the spirits and went to the Earth Mother asking her to remember them, to keep their dreaming alive – and she gifted them with visions that they saw within her, emerging from her womb – so, in this way she was able to help the people find their ways, to follow the animals and know which plants to eat and which to use for medicines – and as she provided for them, they were moved to record their visions within the caves, her womb, to fashion likenesses that held the magic of her gifts in the bones of the animals, the fibres of the plants and the clays and pigments of her own body, and they did so that they might always have Her power with them……so it was that a new way of storytelling came about….
…but, some of the old stories stayed alive within the living memory of the people – there remained within their midst the wise women, with their ancient tales and there steadfast knowing….and the women, well, they kept track of the flowing times and wisdoms that went by the cycles of the Great Sister Luna – for she, of all the ancestors, was seen to have held to her ways…..so it was that, together, through the stories and their wisdoms, through their initiations and workings with the otherworlds, and thanks to the gifts of Erdda’s children, the people survived…
In time new people, tribes and families from far off places, who also had stories of the dragon and the ice giants, came together – and as they got to know each others ways they began to realise that they shared the same stories, held the same wisdoms and that there was a thread that bound them together as one people…..
all loved the Great Mother above all others, and, all prayed with the spirits for her return – so, as they did so, the stories began to change, and to tell of the coming of the great dragon, how its freezing hands had touched the Great Mother, covered her in a mantle of darkness and put her to sleep beneath the ice – within the stories time itself seemed to have stopped and the people felt cut off from the eternal life that She had once given them – but, they knew that their stories and prayers were their life blood, keeping both them and the magic alive, in the hope of being answered with a return to the old ways
and there did indeed come an answer….only it was the ancestors themselves who sent it and it was not as the people had imagined it might be, for the dragon returned once more…
this time it came from far far away so that they could see it approaching, clothed in a flaming cape that trailed back amongst the ancestral fires….the people did not know what to do – some said that it was the anger of the ancestors that had been raised by their Earth Mother, others that the old women themselves had angered the ancestors, prefering to keep to the old time and the ways of Luna secret….but, the dragon swept down upon them and forced them into panic – some fled further south and set out across the great waters, others fled into the heart of the Great Mother and stayed below ground in the caves and sacred places….all were afraid
when the fiery dragon finally arrived it fought with Erdda and with a fearsome wrenching roar span the Great Mother, scouring a wide wound across her skin in the north – she lost her balance and few survived
when the few surviving people did emerge again they found the world in chaos – for a while the Sunna was darkened and now seemed to be dancing in the sky – the very fires of the ancestors themselves had now become displaced, their familiar patterns were no longer where they should be, no longer following the old tracks that described their dreaming – even Luna, who once again held her rhythms, nevertheless seemed to have changed her course – and there was a new bright ancestral fire that rose in the east before Sunna
Everything now had a new rhythm – Luna’s rhythms no longer seemed to hold the power of regeneration that they once had, except, that is, with the women and on this they kept their council for…..now Erdda herself seemed to be dancing with Sunna – and she herself became transformed…..it was as if Erdda in her dance with Sunna was remembering the great dragon, and had begun to go through cycles of birth, death and rebirth – the very cycles that Luna had once held secret, that had belonged with the women and were enshrined in their mysteries
the fire dreamers knew that they needed to anchor the new rhythms of the ancestral fires, and so they watched for their new tracks in the sky realms and gathered their knowledge through marking their new rhythms on the land – Erdda they now realised was changed for ever and the sacred dreaming places that had once been her gateways to the inner worlds now showed them the new cycles above her – they began to realise that the new fire dancing with Sunna had brought them a great gift; a new measure….of time….
the ancestral fire keepers looked to this new fire and saw that its own dance with Sunna held a rhythm – sometimes disappearing and then re-appearing behind Sunna, only to be swallowed once more by the Great Ancestral Fire, and then to re-appear again, leading the way
and so they established great circles on the land, first using the bodies of the standing ones, the trees and, eventually, the stones, the living bones of the Great Mother, to mark the key points at which the ancestral fires swung around in their dance – and key amongst these was the new fire close to Sunna – this one they came to think of as their saviour, for the ice giants were retreating and the Great Mother was now brought once more into fruitfulness – the forests once again spread, greening Erdda, the animals came alive again and the plants once more covered the thawing ground – Little Sunna had made it so and many of their earth circles marked this
The people began to spread across the land that was opening before them – they saw how the animals accompanied them and how they too reponded to the new dance of life and death – and in this way they felt strong bonds of kinship between them and the four-leggeds, the winged ones, the crawling ones and the swimming ones
As they seperated across the land, the people began to see each other differently – they became defined by their totems – the new time released them into new thinking, and the men knew this power for the first time…..only the wise women, the ones who had kept their connections with the Great Mother and sister Luna, remembered the old stories……and the mysteries of their women’s ways – and so came the beginning of the wound that opened between the men’s ways and the women’s
As generations grew the memories of the ancient times began to become eroded by the new; the old time of Luna, of the women, was becoming seperated from the Sunna time, of the men – as the generations passed a shadow of suspicion began to build around the old time, for men had begun to understand time differently – they too now had the power to keep time…….and as the new time grew in their understanding, so did the foundations of a new way of living
marking the new time on the land held them to places – they had begun to build permenant shelters and the centers of understanding, the great circles, pulled them together around these – and yet, the women kept to their knowing, that within their bodies the old time was still alive – so, there were amongst the women some wise elders who had kept the oral traditions and their powers alive, for they knew that this was essential for the survival of the people – through them, and through the women, the people were renewed, the old ones were given a chance to come alive again – Erdda and Luna still spoke with them
Now, as the men were becoming stronger in their powers they sought to assert their authority – they were now controlling the relationships with Erdda’s children, the plants and the animals, and they had begun clearing the land, disrespecting the old kinships with Erdda – and so some of the wise women sought to protect their powers, the initiatic ways and their accompanying stories and they left the settlements, headed for the mountains, the caves and the forests….and some followed – amongst them young women who wanted to learn of the old ways – and they held true to their learning, but, with a new purpose….
And so it was that the people returned across the wide valleys to the land that had once held the great well-spring amidst the deep forest – and amongst them the initiates of the old womens ways sought out the old well-spring, always looking for Erdda’s signs to lead them home
well, there was one young woman amomgst them who had been taught by one of the great wise women whose initiatic centre was in the northern mountains beyond the wide valley – this old wise woman had a knowing that went beyond the old ways, for she instructed her young women to go back to the people and accompany them in their search for new places to settle and establish their centers – she knew that the Great Mother’s love was still strong and would not only guide them, but, would bring the people together again – if they could marry the old and the new ways as one – she instructed her initaites to look out for Erdda’s signs of this sacred marraige
the young woman Ava was the daughter of chieftains – her medicines were strong and peaceful and she had great influence on the people – for she knew that the Great Mother still loved them and the people felt that love in her, knew that it was meant to become one with the new teachings that the men were now carrying forward – and she found a place, within the heartland of the northern lands, that felt to her heart like home – and in this place there was indeed a wellspring, one with miraculous powers, for along with the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, this spring became dry and died as the dark times came, only to gush forth again as the light began to return – and within the sacred waters Ava saw once again the ancestral fires burning bright
This was the marraige of the two ways, the men’s and the women’s, that her teacher had told her to look out for and here she called the people to look to the land for more signs – they found it abundant and scattered with fine stones of great size and qualities that seemed magical, for they held within them flashes of the ancestral fires – the Great Mothers bones seemed be speaking to them to make this a great centre, and the men agreed – here they could build a great wheel, with processional avenues and initiatic sanctuaries into which they could pour all their knowledge and honour the Great Mother’s sacred marraige with Sunna – this place became a center unparalleled in the known world – a place of great pilgrimage within which all the mysteries were taught, both mens and women’s, for the time had come to bring balance back to the ways of the people – all aspects of the birth, death and rebirth cycle were enshrined there in the sacred land and the people flourished as, over many generations, they established their unity once again within Life, celebrating Erdda our Earth, beneath the Stars, the ancestral fires – and what of the sacred well-spring?
Held between the long hall of the sleeping Mother that celebrates her passage into the wisdoms of death and the great Mound that celebrates her renewal, carrying new life in her belly, you will still find the sacred bubbling spring, sleeping through the dark freezing times, awakening with the returning light – its name in our times is Swallowhead Springs and the great center is known to us as Avebury…..Ava’s Stream….
….and what of the old wise woman who had such far sighted and deep understanding, and who had trained her young intiate so well? Well, we might know her by the name of her home in the mountains below the wide valley – for today this still stands at the source of the elven river, the Elbe, flowing out of a mountain near to the borders of Czechoslovakia and Poland….it is known to us today as Snezka…..
……but, in the old days it was know as Schnee Wittchen…..Wise Woman of the Snows, or, Snow White….but, there-in lies another tale to tell…….
Bright blessings of the Great Mother be with us!
dedicated with love to all the Wise Women of Erdda