Lydia's Recapitulation (8)
Alisan de Monfaucon, Ireland-France, 10th C.
I, Lydia of Damascus, continue the ninefold recapitulation of past lives. You may wonder about the intention of this arcane exercise. What purpose does it serve? Whom does it address?
First, I do it to show that it can be done. I demonstrate a peerless skill so that others may aspire to such skill. I invite anyone to match this feat. I accept no questioning of my recall from anyone who cannot match this feat.
Second, there is the value of story-telling. In Kali Yuga the oral tradition comes back to the fore of human discourse. Stories transmitted in oral form will be the media for tribal communication across a planetary network when other, artificial forms of communication, such as the Internet, collapse. Oral tradition is closely allied to vibrant community and the sharing of sacred purposes. Kali Yuga itself has a legend, a story preserved orally until now. This age will be enlivened by personal tales of reincarnation, romance, and fate. Ninefold recapitulation is a catalyst to the memory of those who repeat and discuss it. The memory-chain is a living, interactive node of transpersonal wisdom that can generate parallel and reciprocating nodes.
I offer these recapitulations as one braid in a tapestry of stories to intrigue and engage the mystics of the future, those in whom divine imagination now stirs and awakens. The universe has a narrative structure.
The Gnostic seers had an odd saying: "Everyone lives on after death, but not everyone lives to tell about it." Sequence in past-life recall develops around a node formed by the explicit memory of how one died. The moment of death recalled is like the loop in a braid of many threads. Fix your attention to the loop to pull together the threads of memory and recover the full story of the life that ended at that moment. The mystic weaves past-life stories by pulling them through the knitting loop, the eye of mortality. Recapitulation runs backwards because each recovered lifetime emerges through the loop, the witnessing of one's own death.
The Dalcassians were a clan of Celts who settled on the River Shannon in the 2nd century AD. The Dál gCais family tree traced back to Ollil Olum, who lived around 150 AD. The family belonged to the spectrum of matrilineal warrior societies of Celtic tribes spread across Europe and into Asia Minor (Galacia, land of the Galls or Gallic Celts). Diverse in many ways, these tribes all recognized each other as the Tuatha de Danaan (Two-AH duh Daa-NAAN), the children of Dana. Dana was their supreme tribal goddess and cultural guardian. She was a daughter of Gaia embodied in a river, the Danube. The hearth or prehistorical matrix of the Celtic peoples was at the headwaters of the Danube in a glaciated basin of the Swabian Alps.
The Dalcassians came from a noble line based on matriarchal rule in which a tribe of elder women chose the bravest warrior to be the paternal leader of the clan. (Exactly how certain American Indian tribes chose their chieftains.) By the 10th century, almost thirty generations stood behind the chieftain, Fieldar. His wife Morgane was a singer and weaver with family roots in Britanny. When she was due to give birth to her first child, Morgane dreamt of a snow-white dove that flew into the castle courtyard and landed in the blood of a slain deer being skinned for a feast.
Her child was a son, a pure albino with amethyst eyes and pale platinum hair. At his birth, Morgane went distraught. She was convinced that the child was a changeling, foisted on her by the mischievous denizens of Faery. She rejected the somnolent infant and refused to breast-feed. He had to be given the milk of a kid goat, diluted and strained through a cone full of hazel nuts.
Morgane was excessive about the child's difference. She would not allow him a Dalcassian name that would make him a legitimate member of the clan. After much debating and consulting local witches, she decided that he would be named after a place in Brittany that perhaps did not even exist, except in the lore of the bards: Monfaucon. For his first name, she oddly chose Alisand. It was a form of Melisande, a girl's name derived from the Greek word for a honey bee, melissa. But it fit the child, everyone thought, because he was somehow close to being a little girl, if not androgynous.
Alisan was a delicate and temperamental child, clearly not destined for the warrior's life adopted by most men of the clan. Fortunately for him, Morgane gave birth to a daughter who was totally normal. She had grey eyes and thick, glossy brown hair. Druanne, as she was called, became his closest companion and confident in all matters. She affectionally called him Zandie.
The Celts were an oral culture, but Alisan and Druanne were brought up to be literate. They loved to read scrolls in Latin and Greek, part of a family library inherited from refugees who came via Brittany and Wales from Mediterranean shores—the diaspora of the Mystery Schools. Their favorite pastime was to read together and discuss love stories such as the Roman tales of Aeneas and Dido, Helen and Paris, Jason and Medea, and others.
Druanne sang and keened, and Alisan showed musical talent. He learned to play a small Celtic harp that could be placed on the shoulder and strummed with both hands as he walked. In his teens, he was accomplished enough in music to be considered the up-and-coming bard of the clan, even though, being an albino, he was regarded as kin to the faeries, elves, and sidhe, the sirens of the ancient earth mounds. His style of playing was unusual, fluid and magical. Some said that the pale white strands of his hair caused the strings to vibrate and produce unearthly strains, the calling of Tir-Na-Nog, the Otherworld.
Aengus and Etain
Under the instruction of the clan historian, Hetlarch, Alisan and his sister became involved in a special project: an illuminated manuscript consisting of two volumes entitled The Green and White Books of Aengus. The 10th century was the dawn of a fertile period of bookmaking that produced complex and elaborate masterpieces in Ireland. The Book of Kells, the work of Christian monks, was already begun in the 8th Century. The Aengus books preserved the tribal legacy of the Dalcassians who resisted foreign influence and conversion to the savior religion. Aengus mac Og was a glamorous figure to the Tuatha de Danaan, and the hero most revered in the ancestral lore of their clan. He was a "son of divinity," illumined by the Goddess Keridwen, but not an immortal. Aengus was fully prone to human passion, subject to all the fluctuations of desire, delight, and despair. The twin books told the story of his enamourment with a faery maiden named Etain.
Many legends of Aengus were circulating when Hetlarch began to produce the Green and White Books. His idea was to concentrate on two tales, end to end. First came the story of how Fuamnach, the wife of king Midir who desired Etain, turns the girl into a butterfly so that the king could not have her. In the course of a long enchantment, the butterfly lands on the shoulder of Aengus, a warrior engaged in battle with the men of king Midir. Aengus adopts the butterfly as his treasured companion. He builds a small house for it and takes it with him on many travels about Eire. Their adventures together last seven years and conclude the Green Book. It contained many subplots and digressions, tales of shapeshifting and faery magic, as well as lyrics composed by Alisan and played on his harp.
The White book told how the butterfly that accompanied Aengus falls into a glass of wine and gets swallowed by Etarn, the wife of an Ulster chieftain from the north of Eire. Nine months later Etarn has a child whose father cannot be identified. Aengus alone realizes who it is: his companion butterfly reborn in human form. He now understands the attraction of his butterfly companion, who was actually the maiden Etain. He realizes that Etain is the woman destined to be with him at the moment of his death and take him to Tir-Na-Nog, the paradise of the Ever Young. Aengus calls upon the Ulster witch Blathnat to incubate the child in a fairy mound so that she will grow into a woman in days instead of years. When she emerges after 25 days, Etain recognizes Aengus as her soul companion. She desires him and happily takes her place by his side.
Because Aengus appealed to the supernatural world to have Etain grow into womanhood in twenty-five days, requiring an exception of natural laws, he has to undergo a test that involves the risk of losing her. The supernaturals use chance to compensate for their interventions into the ordinary world. The test of chance is fidchell, a board game with dice. As fate would have it, Aengus has to play against Midir, the aged king who wanted Etain for his own. It was the jealousy of Midir's wife that started this whole adventure, for she turned Etain into a butterfly. Midir in his dotage does nothing but play fidchell, so he has a strong advantage over Aengus in knowledge of the game. Nevertheless, he is so afraid of losing this particular match that he determines to win by cheating. Due to his expertise in the game, he can disguise his cheating very cleverly.
The contest is set at Midir's court with many nobles and warriors attending. Due to her gestation in a faerymound, Etain has the vision of the Underworld that can separate and reverse chirality (right/left). Watching carefully from a corner of the room, she notices the exact moment that Midir puts his cheating strategy into play. Aengus is about to make the losing move when Etain raises from her seat, goes to him, and kisses him softly on his left eyebrow. The kiss causes Aengus to see momentarily through his right eye, shifting his vision of the game board so that he detects the cheating move. Seeing that he is about to fall into Midir's trap, he changes his move and wins the game.
The White Book ended with a lyric by Alisan describing how Etain, in the form of a white swan, takes the deceased Aengus to paradise on her wings.
Hetlarch completed the twin books in the year 968 by the Christian calender, when Alisan was to be thirty-two years old. Early in that year, a message came to the Dalcassians from an emissary of a Celtic enclave in the Rhineland near Trier. A revered hermit, an old ally of the clan who preserved a link to the lost Mysteries, had found a buried cache of scrolls. He declared to Fieldar his intention to create a small library, and asked if Hetlarch might come and assist him in this task. The discovery must remain secret because pious fanatics around the land were more vigilant than ever to crush surviving traces of the Old Religion.
The chieftain agreed. He immediately set up a full entourage for Hetlarch. At a family council, the elders decided that Alisan would accompany the troupe, using his music to cast a spell of protection over them and the Books. Hetlarch would take the Green and White Books to the Rhineland on a loan. They would inspire his colleague and encourage his mission to protect and preserve the wisdom of their pagan ancestors.
The small group consisted of some forty people with horses, mules, and a great brown ox that drew a cart loaded with provisions. They set sail from Dingle Bay and arrived safely at Carnac on the coast of Brittany. Alisan led a ceremonial procession through the long lines of menhirs spread across the wide headland, aligned to the west. Gallic druids and witches from around the area gathered to greet them. There was much jubilance over the purpose of their mission, and hushed excitement over the ornate twin Books. After a visit to the sacred site of Gavrinis in the Gulf of Morbihan, the troupe proceeded northeast. They avoided Paris so that they would not risk too much exposure to the garrilous public.
The Vale of Flanders
After a transit through the valley of the Loire, the entourage headed directly toward Trier and the Rhine Valley. It was coming on August, and extremely hot. The heat wave limited their progress by day, and they did not travel by night unless the moon was bright enough. They reached a large flat plain with immense fields interspersed with dense woods, on the border of what is now France and Belgium: the Vale of Flanders. The Gallic druid who joined them at Carnac listened closely to owl cries, advising that they must proceed with caution. Some kind of enchantment was in the air, and their mission might be at risk. The troupe counted on Alisan to play protective strains on his harp at twilight and dawn.
When they had only a couple of days more to reach Trier, their encampment was visited by mounted men from a nearby chateau. Everyone knew that they must conceal the purpose of their journey, yet to do this they had to feign their moves and accept the formalities of a courtly visitation. A rich and powerful lord named Bernier de Nivelles invited them to his chateau for a feast honoring the birthday of his wife, Madalaine de Val d'Asc. It was an invitation not to be refused, lest they arouse suspicion. The troupe set out for the chateau with a distinct sense of foreboding.
Bernier de Nivelles was a cripple, wounded in various wars and tournaments. He was a small, gnarly man with a sullen air, about sixy years of age. His domain was immense, including rich farmlands and a huge fenced wood where he hunted deer. His wounds were of two kinds, lower torso and shoulder. Due to the lower wounds, he was unable to father children or give amorous attention to his wife, Madalaine, though he had other children by previous wives, and quite a number of bastards running around the region. Madalaine was now in her mature years, but unusually ravishing. She had thick auburn hair, flashing green eyes, and sensuous lips that curved oddly when she laughed. Local people went in fear of her, whispering that she was faery—a sexual sprite possessed of supernatural powers. The fact that she had not had children added to their superstitious fear. A woman of the age of forty-eight with no offspring must be blighted in the womb by demons, or else in the service of sinister powers as a sexual minion. So it was thought by the peasants and townsfolk who had adopted the savior religion.
Madalaine was certainly capricious and unstable, but she was perfectly normal and perhaps still fertile. She suffered piteously from the curse of chastity imposed by feudal code. When her lord was away, she was forced to wear the iron belt that enclosed her hips and locked away her sex. Due to this unnatural confinement, she blood rhythms were deranged, and she bled profusely, like a young woman. Bleeding meant she was able to bear children, but there was no man to make her conceive. For consolation, Madalaine kept bees in a lovely garden attached to the south side of the chateau.
Bernier kept his wife in tight rein, so if she wished to misbehave with any man, she could hardly do so at her ease. He had acquired Madalaine in a feudal exchange that involved taking her from another lord to whom she was promised, but he did not exert the droit de saigner—quite simply because he was not able to do so. The droit de saigner, the right to make bleed, was the privilege of a feudal lord to deflower any virgin of his domain before she went to the bed of her betrothed. Madalaine was doubly a virgin: she was not deflowered by the lord of the land, Bernier, when she was promised to another man, nor was she deflowered when she became Bernier's proper wife.
Upon arriving at the estate, the Dalcassian troupe set up camp before the chateau, outside the moat. The bridge was kept down allowing for meeting and mingling in the courtyard. The first time Alisan saw Madalaine, she was on a balcony above the courtyard, standing beside Bernier. She was acting properly in her role of chatelaine. They did not meet until that evening when everyone gathered for dinner in the grand hall. Alisan played for the court, and even Bernier seemed to be moved by the delicate beauty of his lyrics. At table, Alisan and Madalaine did not look at each other, even once, but in irresistable attraction played between them. Some of the Celtic entourage felt the tension, and Bernier's valets detected it, though they could not observe any objectional gestures or looks exchanged between the visiting bard and the chatelaine.
Until then, the women Alisan had known in a carnal way were brought to him by his uncles and other members of his father's court. Because he was an albino, no one was sure if his sexual habits were normal. He was advised to have no offspring. It went against the omens of the druidic counsellors. Not that he wanted children, anyway. The young bard was content to enjoy amorous play with a number of woman, sometimes with more than one at a time. He was almost effiminate in his gestures and allure, true, except at the moments when it suited him to be otherwise.
After the feast, just before midnight, everyone retired to their beds, and the Celtic troupe returned to their encampment outside the moat. Alisan felt strangely exhilirated. He relaxed against a huge wooden wheel of the oxcart. He was almost drowsing when he looked up to see Bernier's jester, a lanky man with an odd, unnerving stare. He told the bard to follow him in silence. They went around the back of the chateau, crossed the moat on a improvised footbridge, and entered a doorway so small they had to crawl on their knees to get through it. The jester led him down pitch-dark hallway, feeling along the walls, to an entry lit by a single small torch. He knocked lightly at a wooden, turned and nodded to Alisan, then slipped soundlessly away into the depths of the chateau.
After a long moment, Madalaine opened the door. With a regal gesture, she invited Alisand to enter the room. Speaking in a tremulous voice, she used a dialect of Breton that he understood pretty well, having learned if from his mother's relatives. Finding himself alone with the chatelaine in this room, with a huge boxed bed before the latticed window, Alisand felt something stir in him, but not like the simple lust he had felt for women in the past. Madalaine, too, confessed that she was captivated by an attraction that was more than sexual. They sat and gazed at each for a long time without speaking. Oddly, neither of them had the urge to embrace, kiss, or couple on the bed.
As the night worn on, Madalaine explained that she was a virgin, against her will, but now she had resigned herself to the fact that she would be childess all her life. At forty-eight, that seemed inevitable. Yet in Alisan she saw the child that she might have had if she had been a mother at sixteen, as often occurred in feudal marriage. How could it be that she saw him as her son? Alisan himself was overwhelmed at this confession on her part. He felt a dam break inside him, his heart suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling he had never had before, the love of his mother. It was a lust not to be consummated, yet it was not incest because Madalaine was not his mother. He had never imagined that a man could feel such a bizarre, tormented desire.
It was a strange and strained encounter. Through the night they could not stop gazing at each other, speechless and awkward.
The Deer Park
The bard and the chatelaine stayed together that night, but they did not even touch each other. During the next day, Alisand was distracted and restless. The troupe prepared to depart on the following morn, and reach Trier a day or so later. At mid-afternoon, Alisan impetuously entered the chateau, requesting to wish to speak to the chatelaine about her bees. He was politely escorted to the garden where she kept her hives, but this behavior aroused the suspicion of Bernier's valets. Madalaine talked with Alisan in the privacy of her garden, and they agreed to spend the bard's last night together as they had just done. To be together was a torture, but there was not way to avoid it. Alisand could not take her with him, nor could her stay with her in that place. But they could at least have another evening to gaze at each other and bathe in that strange current that flowed between them.
Just before twilight, Alisand went around the side of the chateau where the jester had shown him the hidden door. He used the small footbridge for access, as before. Just as he was kneeling to enter the passageway, a cry came from the ramparts above. Someone called Bernier's name, and there was a bustle of activity. Alisand was frozen on the spot, not knowing whether to enter the chateau or flee. Bernier appeared at the ramparts, attended by valets who leaned out and looked down, catching sight of Alisand. Then a hunting horn sounded a flat, bleating note from the entrance of the courtyard. Unprepared to react to this alarm and uncertain what to do next, Alisan felt his flesh turn cold, and his heart jumped like a startled deer. He had not a minute to ponder his next action, for the sound of men running in his direction along the moat came to his ears. He turned and fled into the hunting wood.
Additional to his sexual disablement, Bernier's wounds from battle included in his upper body a broken arm that had not been properly reset. When the joint was not well, especially in intense heat, he could not hold and shoot a bow. To be deprived of his favorite pastime made him bitter and resentful of others. In his pride, Bernier insisted that all deer slain for the feeding of his chateau be his prey, and no one else's. But as he could not handle the bow all year round, he instructed his ironmonger to use barrell staves to construct large, crescent-shaped traps that snapped shut on running deer. The wood situated to the west of the chateau had several traps installed, year-round. But the traps were only set in hot weather when the lord of the chateau could not pull his bow.
In the deer park, the light of setting sun spread like a bloodstain on the leaves of the trees. The air in the wood was sultry from the day's heat, and another, feral smell. Alisan ran erratically on the paths that emerged before his eyes, holding to a general direction away for the chateau. Night was falling fast and darkness would be in his favor. Curiously, the men pursuing him did not have dogs with them. The paths meandered between tall elms, through oak groves, an occasional yew, and patches of thick foliage. Alisan ran with agility, excited at the chance to get away. Where the path widened, he lunged into an open glade, his stride almost a leap. Suddenly, he heard a unnatural snap. The curving row of iron teeth caught him on the left side, almost locking one by one into his ribs, tearing into his heart and ripping his armpit open. The spring-action threw him violently to the right and pinned him down to the ground where the deer trap was staked hard into the earth.
In the fading light, Alisan saw daisies before his eyes, white-petalled, yellow-cored daisies as large as suns wheeling in a sky without an horizon. A clump of dry grass keened in his ears, each thin straw needle with a different pitch of keening. He heard the dry grass scream and behind the scream, the silence of the earth from which it grew. On his lips, the taste of fresh droppings of rabbits who had skipped gaily over the trap. He smelled the sultry aroma of deer musk rising from a dark patch of pooling blood. The smell was a syrupy fume that entered his nostrils and sent a magenta flush into his eyes. Alisan mused, "If blood is so dark..." The pool of blood lifted him like the placid surface of a lake spreading and dissolving out to the edges of the sky. He drifted lazily into the colors of the sunset, crimson and orange ripple-edged like chords of flamenco. Alisan wondered, "Is this a sunset I see..." He could not tell if the color of the sky was his blood, his death, the hue of his mother's gaze, or just the color of the sky.
july 9, 2008 andalucia
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2018 by John L. Lash.